March 28, 2007

Students Take Over the Johnson

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There are few days when the lobby of the Johnson Museum of Art is filled with the sounds of beat boxing and dancing feet, but March 10 was one of those days. The Museum Club, in conjunction with the Johnson Museum and the SAFC, hosted its annual Student Arts Showcase in the afternoon.

Meg Sofen ’09, the Museum Club’s president and de facto master of ceremonies over the course of the day, explained that the showcase was essentially open to any student interested in the fine or performing arts at Cornell who wanted to share their talents. Weeks before the event, the Museum Club advertised all over campus encouraging any interested performance groups and artists to participate. After recruiting a number of performers and collecting an array of artwork, Sofen and the other members of the Museum Club worked with the Johnson Museum to ensure the showcase’s logistical success.

What makes the event so special and beneficial to the Cornell community, according to Sofen, is that “anyone who is interested in the arts can participate or submit artwork … you don’t have to be an art major.” The Student Arts Showcase provides a valuable opportunity for those whose talents might otherwise remain hidden to shine alongside students who are established as art majors or who are part of an already well-known performance group.

The study lounge two floors beneath the lobby was filled with a wide array of student artwork. Offerings ranged from oil paintings and photographs to sculpture and distinctive modern art. Although not much information was given about the artists, the pieces spoke for themselves. Judging from the work displayed, Cornell has a thriving, talented art community.

One of the contributors, Vivek Venkataraman, exhibited a piece displaying a beautifully vivid watercolor of the Cornell Clocktower that was part of the showcase. A graduate student in applied physics, Venkataraman came to the United States from India last year. Painting has been a hobby of his for a long time, so exhibitions such as the Student Arts Showcase are an excellent way for him to share the fruits of his pastime with others. When even the physics department can boast a talented painter in their ranks, there can be no doubt that the arts are alive and well at Cornell.

Performances throughout the day ranged from a charmingly eclectic student band, The Size of Stamps, to a Chinese dance troop, Amber, to an always delightful performance by The Hangovers, complete with break dancing and bird calls. With a total of ten groups performing over the course of the event, also including a brass quintet, The Chordials, Cornell Dancesport, The Key Elements, CallbaXX, MoST HiGH, and a vocalist/guitar duo, there was something for everyone no matter what their musical preferences might be. This undoubtedly contributed to the showcase’s success, since those admiring the art and performances were as diverse as the work itself.

A wide range of ages was present at the showcase — students, staff, out of town guests, and even a few small children. One band that seemed to be a student favorite was the newly formed The Size of Stamps. Officially becoming a band only three weeks ago, freshmen Stephanie Jenkins ’10, Isabelle Cutting ’10, Wren Albertson-Rogers ’10 and Maurice Chammah ’10 were already proficiently strumming their way through well orchestrated original songs as well as a Neutral Milk Hotel cover.

The inclusion of Cutting on the cello added a pleasing twist to the typical college indie rock band formula. Although they most likely have yet to build much of a following, since this was only The Size of Stamps’ second official performance, the audience responded to each song with enthusiasm and many took the time to compliment the band and inquire about future performances after the completion of their set.

Their performance at this year’s Student Arts Showcase may have gained The Size of Stamps some new fans; it certainly exposed their music to a wider audience. When asked for her feelings regarding the event, Jenkins explained that she was “just happy for the opportunity to play here.” Whether they were playing, dancing, painting, sculpting, or singing, no doubt all who participated in the Museum Club’s 2007 Student Arts Showcase would agree with the sentiment.