Editor’s Column – Where Is Our Ho Center?

Emily Rawdon

Every spring, just as April rolls around, I get giddy. This is my time, when nearly all of my involvements come to their peak. Theater-, music- and art-oriented students proudly debut what they have spent the last few months perfecting. Between Dancefest, Student Theater, a cappella concerts and all of the senior projects and performances occurring, this campus gets extremely busy.

Incidentally, with all of these events competing for the same spaces, campus gets cramped.

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Clifford and Peg Flanagan, the Chair and Vice Chair of Colgate’s Board of Trustees to discuss only one topic: the state of visual and performing arts on Colgate’s campus. I am lucky enough to be heavily involved in this area of life in Hamilton as a double major in studio art and theater and a member of University Choir, Caribbean Students Association and Kuumba. Needless to say, I was overjoyed — and not just at the fact that food would be provided. For the past three years, I’ve taken note of numerous items on campus that have serious room for improvement. I jumped at the occasion to shed some light on the plights campus departments and groups are presently suffering. The group at the table shared my sentiment. We came to Colgate because of the liberal arts education, yet the majors we chose are the most neglected on campus.

As previously mentioned, the month of April on Colgate’s campus is crammed tighter than the crowd at a Girl Talk concert. The groups of students seated at the table began to explain to the pair just what was occurring. Here, art students scramble to complete their projects, theatre students fight to book limited rehearsal space for their presentations and music students spend hours preparing for concerts and recitals. Between these departments, free space is scarce. Practice rooms in Dana are small with multiple noise leaks. Ryan Studio only has two “large” space areas for theatre majors to stage their projects. The art department is fortunate enough to remove their studio majors from the mess via individual spaces in Schupf Studio, but leave their art history majors to cloud the Digital Studio.

On top of this lie the rest of us who were around the table. We are not yet seniors, some not even majors, but are still involved in the departments. Our classes meet in these same spaces or wherever we can fit. It was mentioned that one class in the Theater Department is forced to cram into a wing of Brehmer Theater, which no one should even compare to a real classroom. We don’t have performance spaces that are adequate — choirs are consigned to limited time in Memorial Chapel, while theater and art students are forced to strike out on their own to find an available studio-like space. As each one of us painted this picture of a severely neglected area of campus, the Board members looked genuinely shocked. We continued to expand our discussion bringing into what is perhaps the hardest thing to deal with – the balance between these departments and student groups on campus.

Anyone in Dancefest knows that finding space to rehearse on this campus in the weeks leading up to the event is a true battle. Between majors unwilling to compromise on studio time or being unable to get any time in the Chapel until the week of the performance, groups wind up in obscure places. Some have been forced to travel, practicing at either the Hamilton Arts Center or Joy’s Dance Studio. When asked why we didn’t travel to schools nearby to rehearse, the general consensus was, “why bother?” When asked by my friend why they sold out of Dancefest tickets so soon, all I could reply was, “Because there is never enough room.” And these are only the concerns of the dance groups!

Overall, we presented a very one-sided story. All of us were students involved in a single department. Though some overlapped into student organizations, not a single student art group leader was sent the e-mail I received. Very few people realize the struggle that is happening between the space, the students and the departments. We were met with the point that our groups are small, but how can you turn away from the fact that on Friday night the Chapel stage will feel the pounding of over 150 dancers? We need more support! Whether it comes in the form of a Ho Center for the Performing Arts, complete with dance studios, a black box theatre and a performance space that can actually fit everyone that wants to go to Dancefest or a conversion of present facilities on campus into studio space, we need more functioning room. I was taught sharing was good when I was little, but what I am faced with every spring is impossible. A faculty member told me to start an uprising of the groups to get what we need. But why should we have to fight when it should have been handled by the university that bills itself as a progressive institution catering to the needs of its students? However, if it comes to it, I’ll be right there with the rest of the table, trying to explain the needs of yet another group Colgate overlooks.