Every week at Olive Tjadin Hall, the Fine Arts building tucked into the northwest corner of the Arts Quad, there is a new student exhibition in one of the two galleries it houses. Various MFA and BFA students take on the daunting task of putting together a cohesive work or works of art of wildly varying material and subject matter, to be displayed and scrutinized in the proverbial “white cube.” And yet, nobody comes to see these shows. The art majors do, and maybe some of their friends who have been badgered enough and leave the pages of their textbooks for a few minutes to come to the frequently catered openings do, but that’s about it. It’s preaching to the choir. It’s not just art for art’s sake; it is art for artists and their friend’s sake. This is not to say this isn’t a great opportunity for student artists to create, organize and display their work in a constructive and relatively friendly setting, it is. But to a large extent, it’s a shame and a waste.
Maybe it’s to be expected, given the negligible attendance the Johnson Museum has (which houses exhibitions and artworks by “professional” artists) and the fact that not even Art History majors know about or go to these student art shows. This trend however is not only limited to the fine arts. Cornell Cinema consistently screens incredible films, both classic and new, for a fraction of the average ticket price. There are plays, dance performances, concerts, a cappella arch sings, literary magazines, all forms of artistic expression by fellow Cornell students that litter the campus. Despite this, the galleries are routinely empty, the Cinema often less than a third full, the plays are mostly attended by friends of the cast or classes seeing them for credit. All of this in spite of the fact that these incredible opportunities are just a few feet away from our doorsteps. I say “our” because I am equally guilty of not going, or not even finding out about these events so I can make an excuse to not attend.
This then begs the question. Why? Why do we as a student body (let alone the faculty and staff) not frequent the myriad artistic and cultural opportunities our peers are constantly producing and exhibiting. Maybe we are too busy, constantly searching for time to eat dinner in between our classes, homework, clubs, sports teams etc. By the time the weekend rolls around we would much rather spend our free time getting drunk and partying than partake in yet another intellectual pursuit. Perhaps it’s just a societal problem; the arts might not be as important as those involved in them would want to believe.
In the end however, it doesn’t matter in the least. I am not addressing this to the Cornell community as a whole, I am writing this to you, the reader. You are at this esteemed institution for four years; less if you go abroad and more if you are an architect (not that you guys need more things on your plate, if you have some free time eat a yogurt or something). Incredibly talented and motivated individuals who are in the midst of some sort of artistic self-discovery surround you, and during your semesters here you have the opportunity not only to encourage them in their endeavors but also to enlighten yourself. Because when else will you have the opportunity to be among such a condensed cluster of artists all working tirelessly to produce something beautiful, original. Maybe they won’t succeed, but regardless, you will be all the better off if you sacrifice a minute slice of your hectic schedule to experience it with them. So next time you see a flier, a chalk, a quarter card, pause for a second and if what you see interests you give it a shot, worst comes to worst you’ll get a free piece of cheese and some grapes.
Dan Rosen is a senior in the College of Art, Architecture, and Planning. He may be reached at email@example.com. Smell the Rosen appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.