The Arts: Undervalued Passions on Campus
Lawrenceville attracts students from all around the world by providing a vast range of opportunities to pursue a variety of extracurriculars, whether they be artistic, academic, or athletic. Students are encouraged to immerse themselves in their passions and share them with the community. However, it is clear that not all of these fields get the community engagement and appreciation that they deserve. The arts, in particular, fall victim to this disparity.
Each week at school meeting, we are reminded of weekly athletic events and are encouraged to attend to show school pride. But when has the school ever developed such a systematic schedule for the arts? Lawrenceville disproportionately promotes sports over the arts. Although larger performing arts events, such as the Fall Musical, Winterfest, and the Spring Dance Concert (SDC) do get major attention, small-scale arts events get little to no promotion in the community. We see students excited to watch the next football game, or even go out to Princeton to support the ice hockey players, but the Winter Orchestra Concert gets only a modest audience and little to no promotion. The School provides food trucks, or fundraising opportunities at sports games; some teams even get their own gear. Arts events, on the other hand, don't get this amount of support. At the very minimum, sports hold interscholastic competitions, whereas the arts are confined solely to on-campus activities.
To be fair, theatrical and dance performances are easier to engage in without fully understanding their complexities. It's similar to watching sports—there is a tangible buzz among the audience. It's interactive, with energy that's impossible to ignore. However, that does not imply that other arts events can be undervalued. Dozens of events that showcase the talent on campus get minimum attention from the community. For example, the music department holds monthly Midday Music sessions during lunch that feature students who have worked exceptionally hard to put on incredible solo performances. Attendance at these performances, however, is often limited to the performers and their close friends or family. There is barely any participation by the larger School community and even faculty. The timing is also inconsiderate, as people are simply unwilling to make the long trek across campus when they can socialize with friends at the Bathhouse or Irwin Dining Center. A similar issue arises with the Tuesday Dance Series. Although the debut performance was well attended, later performances sparked no excitement on campus. These events deserve the same attention and support from the School so that students are aware of what artists on campus are doing and how they can be supported by the community.
While some performers do receive appreciation and respect, the community's support is superficial and restrictive. Students always remember the lead roles in the Musical or Winterfest, but how much credit do the stage managers get? The techies? The students that push their boundaries down in the costume shop and backstage to bring us brilliant garments and scene pieces? What about the musicians who keep the show together? They are so far hidden that most people don't even know about the pit orchestra, let alone celebrate their achievements. Many students hold stigma against being "an arts person." Let’s put this into perspective. Why are techies and avid performers called "theater nerds?" People who are passionate about the arts can even be labelled as "art freaks." The public often discredits these artists through titles with negative connotations, generating unconscious bias and underappreciation.
Furthermore, many students feel that they are "not an arts person" and choose to shy away from the arts. Here, a misconception must be addressed. It's common to think that unlike sports, someone who hasn't studied the arts will not be able to understand or appreciate it. This mindset turns into bias and skepticism. The truth is, you don't have to be "an arts person," or knowledgeable of arts lingo to appreciate art and support your peers. Similar to watching a sport, you don't have to understand all the rules to enjoy the game. You most definitely don't have to be "an arts person" to try something new and still enjoy the process. However, we've come to acknowledge this misconception so much to the point that the assumption becomes true. It would be hypocritical to say that Lawrenceville provides the opportunity for students to explore their passions if the community itself does not give them its full support. Being able to share and perform is an integral part of any artist's growth and is necessary for motivation to explore his/her own potential. Yet these actions are pointless if they do not garner community engagement. Students should be better encouraged to not only support their artistic peers, but also step outside their comfort zone and try picking up something new like theater, dance, visual arts, or music. Promoting more open-minded thinking and enthusiasm in our community towards the arts will increase appreciation for all the brilliant talent existing on campus.