SPINKS: Grounding yourself in art
The University's artistic offerings can be educational and enriching
Last week I was required to pay a visit to the Fralin Museum as part of a history course I am taking this semester. That same week, our hilarious and distinguished alumna Tina Fey visited and spoke about the importance of the arts as part of the President’s Speaker Series. The Symphony Under the Stars concert, performed by the Charlottesville and University Symphony Orchestra, also took place last week, although I was unable to attend. My point remains, however: At the University, we have virtually unlimited opportunities to experience the arts, and I think the arts are an aspect of our school that goes under-appreciated. Many of the arts-related events that happen on Grounds and in the surrounding Charlottesville area are conveniently located and cost little to nothing. More students should make it a priority to integrate the arts into their lives and to take advantage of the artistic opportunities that being a student at the University presents.
During my visit to the Fralin Museum, the curator spoke to us about the history of the museum, her own job and responsibilities, the process of curation and the current exhibits. We were also given a tour through the Ansel Adams and “Looking at the New West” exhibits, along with explanations of what the exhibits meant in a historical context. The museum’s employees worked hard to be accommodating to our group, answer all of our questions and to make the trip as meaningful to us as possible, given that we were history students.
As I left the museum, I was struck by the fact that I could revisit the museum at any time — it is a permanent resource for me. I realized that viewing and understanding the art could teach me just as much as going to a library. I could draw inspiration from a painting or sculpture the same way I could draw it from a textbook or well-delivered lecture. And I could go back whenever I wanted — for free. We students enjoy similar access to the Kluge-Ruhe and the Ruffin Gallery. We should not undervalue these opportunities. The study of art could be much more applicable to your academic interests than you may realize, and if you try to approach your education from an aesthetic perspective you may become a more open-minded and well-rounded student.
Making the appreciation of the arts a priority in your life benefits you, and the University community gives you a multitude of ways to do that on a regular basis. Our arts programs at the University are comprehensive. There is sure to be something that you would enjoy, whether you’re an amateur movie critic, a music fan, a painter or a dancer. The events that are easiest to attend are the ones directly on Grounds, of course. Our school has dozens of a cappella groups; the University Programs Council hosts movie nights in Newcomb; and you can even experience art by watching the Cavalier Marching Band perform at halftime shows. The University also boasts many talented dramatists, dancers and poets who often perform on Grounds.
Attending arts events can also help you feel closer to your fellow students. It is a wonderful gesture to support the people that you live and learn with on a daily basis. Attending arts events can make you feel more integrated into the University community, because you will get a wider view of the different pursuits that animate your peers. If you are not a lover of the arts already, gaining a respect for what artists do can be a humbling experience. It is important to broaden your worldview while in college, and that includes your view of what it means to be “smart” or “talented.” There is more than one kind of success, and artistic success ranks among the most impressive kinds.
Off Grounds, events such as the Virginia Film Festival, Fridays after Five on the Downtown Mall, concerts at the Jefferson, the Southern and nTelos Pavillion, and the Heritage Theatre Festival present great opportunities not only to experience the arts but also to gain a greater understanding of the city in which you live. Charlottesville is our home and it has a vibrant art scene. It would be foolhardy to pass up the chance to immerse ourselves in such a unique environment.
The University has many valuable resources to offer its students, and I am not prizing the arts above science, research, athletics, or anything else. I am simply calling for more attention to be given to the arts, because as Vice Provost of the Arts Judy Kielbasa said when introducing the Speaker Series last week, “The value of free expression in the experience of music, dance, film, visual art, writing and even fashion impacts people from every walk of life [and] the arts serve as one of our strongest bridges to the community of Charlottesville and the commonwealth of Virginia.”
Ashley Spinks is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. Her columns run Mondays.