July 13, 2008

The Arts Staff's Guide to Having Fun (and Failing School)

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Cornell is hard — extremely, exhaustingly hard. It’s important you know that now. It’s also important you know that there are plenty of things to do at Cornell and in Ithaca besides your (nearly impossible) school work. It may come as a surprise, but some of those things don’t even involve drinking.
The following is a somewhat incomplete list of all the great venues and organizations on and off campus that provide art and entertainment to you. We say incomplete, because, even though we’d like to think so, we aren’t actually omniscient. There are probably venues or cool establishments around that we don’t know of. If you find one, give us a call, so we can pretend we knew about it all along (or better yet, join our staff and write about it yourself).

Cornell Cinema
Cornell Cinema is beyond sweet for a few reasons. First, the theatres are beautifully old-school, with frescoed ceilings and faded plush-velvet seats. Second, they show all types of movies, from big screen hits like Juno, to classics to independent film events such as this year’s Dylan retrospective. Finally, Cornell Cinema (often in conjunction with the film department) brings some kickass filmmakers to come speak, both alumni like Ron Moore ’72, Battlestar Galactica creator, and non-alumni like Todd Haynes (I’m Not There). Tickets run much cheaper than actual movie theatre tickets, and it is much closer — right in Willard Straight.

The Schwartz Center
If you’re currently having horrific flashbacks to your annual high school musical (or to High School Musical), you have the wrong idea. The Schwartz Center is home to the theatre, film and dance department, and hosts a variety of plays, musicals, dance shows, films and lectures. The plays are produced, directed and starred in by students, Cornell-hired equity actors and often guest star people you’ve seen from movies and television. Along with student performances, the Schwartz also brings in guest speakers and dance companies for performances. Tickets usually range from eight to 10 dollars.

The Schwartz Center doesn’t hold the monopoly on the theatre arts at Cornell. Risley, which you know about from the housing packet and where some of you may be living, also hosts a variety of plays, shows and events throughout the year, most open to non-residents. Our favorite is the annual Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is awkwardly amazing, especially when you see that kid you sit next to in your writing seminar wearning fishnets, a teddy and a tiara. (True story.) It’s also a great way to get involved in theatre, especially if you’re just dabbling: they have auditions and take play submissions. (risleytheatre.org)

Cornell University’s Program Board brings the best people to campus, sometimes overlapping with someone else huge coming. Last year, our biggest dilemma was choosing between seeing Tracy Morgan or the New Pornographers. Along with Tracy, CUPB was responsible for Stephen Colbert’s, BJ Novak’s, Frank Warren’s and Kevin Smith’s presencce on the Hill. Although our super-duper reporting senses hasn’t helped us to uncover the entirety of next year’s lineup, we do know that Bill Maher is coming. Tickets typically range in the $20s and $30s (not too shabby). Just move fast, because they sell out quickly. (rso.cornell.edu/cupb/)

The Tracy/New Pornos conundrum was partially caused by the Cornell Concert Commission. You’ll get a quick introduction to them when they host their free concert Sunday afternoon of orientation, and to RJD2 if you haven’t heard them before. Last year, even though we had to miss New Pornographers for Tracy, we made up for it with T-Pain, OAR, Broken Social Scene and Yo Lo Tengo. The only downside of CCC shows is that they’re usually Sunday nights, which your parents would expect you to reserve for homework. Or something.

The Fanclub Collective
Fanclub is to the CCC what Subpop is to Virgin. (If you don’t know what we’re talking about, than you proved our point.) Authentically indie and musically “with it” to the point where they even shame us, Fanclub is a student club that brings lesser known musical acts to campus — everything from Asobi Seksu to the Tokyo Police Club to Girl Talk. The shows are mainly hosted on campus in dining halls, and are pretty inexpensive.

The Johnson Museum
The News section may have stole our thunder when they mentioned it, but the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art is the coolest building on campus. Built by I.M. Pei (who also built the glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre), the Johnson is that crazy big building behind the arts quad that’s basically just a bunch of rectangles with holes.
Not only is it beautiful from both inside and out, it also hosts a plethora of temporary and permanent exhibits, even sometimes in the form of short, silent films screened on the outside of the building. In addition, the museum hosts gallery openings, workshops, Art-for-Lunch artist talks and the Two Naked Guys Cafe, although we have yet to see two naked men serving coffee. Shame.
Oh, and it’s (usually) free.

Tjaden / Sibley
Next door to the Johnson are the two buildings that host the collective visual creativity of Cornell: the school of Art, Architecture and Planning. Something little known about both buildings is that they contain galleries with ongoing exhibitions, showcasing the work of students, faculty and visiting professors. Sometimes they have pretty swanky “openings” too. 9.8 times out of 10 it’s free and worth a look-see. (There are also ongoing exhibitions in libraries and other buildings across campus.)

The Rest of Ithaca
If, by any chance, you manage to get bored of campus life, there’s a whole other scene in Ithaca at large: performances at Castaways and Felicia’s Atomic Lounge, art galleries, festivals, shows at the Kitchen theatre, and, our personal favorite, the State Theatre. Located in the Commons (which you must visit as soon as you get settled), it’s pretty simple to get to (tcatbus.com or ask a friendly upperclassman to drive you), and hosts all kinds of amazing shows — past years include Ani DiFranco, George Carlin and the Hotel Café tour.