So. You’re in college. In Ithaca. What to do now?
When prelims, lab reports and snow aren’t getting you down (read: seldom), there’s a lively arts scene right outside your doorstep to keep you sane. From barn-burning bashes in Barton to art appreciation in the Johnson, there’s something for every taste. Cornell may be known for its cows and gorges, but it’s no slouch when it comes to music, theater, film and fine art.
And don’t forget the turf around The Hill. Ever since it made an appearance in Homer, Ithaca has been an arts-obsessed little town, with a local music scene bursting at the seams and a host of other cultural offerings to keep the hippies, hicks and Hillsters entertained. So make use of your time here, hit the town and remember — grades may last a semester, but art lasts forever.
The three go-to movie theaters on or near campus are Cornell Cinema, Cinemapolis, and Regal Cinemas. They all have specific niches, and are all fairly easy to get to.
Located on the first floor of Willard Straight Hall — that’s three floors below the main Ho Plaza entrance — Cornell Cinema is the on-campus theater showing wide release blockbusters, documentaries, foreign and independent films. The films are wide-ranging but are generally in-tune with student interest. Tickets are only $5.50 for undergraduates — $4.50 if you buy them in a six show pass — so it’s consistently the least expensive theater in the area, as well as being the easiest to get to. Cornell Cinema also just added another dimension to their theater by installing a 3D projector.
Cinemapolis, on the Ithaca Commons, is an independent, nonprofit movie theater that shows art, independent and foreign films. The tickets cost $9 with a student ID for general films. They also host a few local annual festivals and other special events. On the South of the Commons, there’s almost always a TCAT that can get you there and back. Routes 30, 32, 90, 10 and more will get you there, and run late nights except for Sunday, when you won’t be able to get a bus back from the Commons after 6:30.
The Regal Ithaca Mall Stadium 14 theater is a standard wide-release theater in the Ithaca Mall. The Ithaca Mall is north of campus in Lansing, and you can take the TCAT Route 30 on weekdays or 70 on weekends. On Friday and Saturday night, the last bus back is at about 11:30. On weekdays, it’s 9:30, and Sundays at 6:30. Getting back from the Ithaca Mall after missing the last bus is a stressful ordeal, but hopefully by fall ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft will be established in Ithaca and it will be far easier to get a ride back to campus.
The lounges in dorms usually have TV with cable, but watching your weekly show can be difficult. Cornell schedules don’t lend themselves to dedicated television time, there’s no channel guide to scan through and you might be facing competition with your dormmates for use. A list to channels can be found here.
Most people watch TV through online services — Hulu, Netflix, HBO Go, various sport networks, etc. There is a limit on how much internet data you can use per month, but it’s 150 GB and most people don’t run over.
College campuses are monitored more closely than the general public for use of filesharing sites to share copyrighted videos, so downloading a movie off of a sketchy torrent site is slightly riskier than at home. Cornell doesn’t monitor the websites themselves, but if the copyright owner detects illegal filesharing on Cornell’s network, they’ll notify Cornell, and Cornell will notify you. From the University, the first time you get caught, you’ll be blocked from the network until you take responsibility for it. If you’re caught repeatedly, the punishments become harsher.
Cornell Concert Commission
Cornell Concert Commission brings national touring acts to campus. They usually put on a concert on the Arts Quad during the first weekend of fall semester, a homecoming show at Barton Hall and a few other shows throughout the year at Bailey and Barton Halls. They’ve brought Gucci Mane, The Flaming Lips, Ke$ha and Bob Dylan in the last few years. They usually cost around $15 — a good price for the national touring acts they bring in.
The State Theater is where most of the largest national acts come through, as well as where some other theater and dance performances occur. They’re generally more expensive than other shows in Ithaca, but they’re the normal price for the shows they bring through. Prices vary a lot, but the median is about $30. It’s on State Street right by the Commons so it’s very easy to get to, generally by TCAT Route 90.
The Haunt hosts the smaller national touring acts and the bigger local artists. Shows are small and generally cost $15-20. It’s a bit harder to get to since there’s no bus back after the shows. It’s a do-able walk, but not ideal.
Fanclub Collective is a group on campus that mostly puts together house shows with local and regional acts. Though they’ve been known to hold shows in Risley and other campus buildings, the shows are usually in the basements of the Cooperative Houses on West Campus — Cayuga Lodge, 660 Stewart and Watermargin. The music ranges from indie to rock to electronic, with quite a few alternative and experimental bands. The shows cost $5, via cash or Venmo, at the basement door of whatever house they’re in.
Ithaca Underground is an organization in Ithaca that plans all-ages DIY shows and festivals. They plan shows year-round and are more community-based than college-based. Rock, hip hop, punk and experimental are all well-represented in their line-ups. They often collaborate on shows with other groups, like Fanclub Collective and Ithaca College Bureau of Concerts, as well as put on larger festivals like Naked Noise, an experimental festival, and Big Day In, a 12-hour show at The Haunt. Shows are usually $5-10.
Cayuga Sound Festival
This fall is the first Cayuga Sound Festival in Stewart Park by Cayuga Lake. It’s curated and co-headlined by X Ambassadors. The Roots are also co-headlining, and a mix of national and local bands are playing.
Slope Day is an annual celebration of the end of Spring Semester. It’s more about the parties than the music, but several bands perform on a stage on Libe Slope. Past acts include Kendrick Lamar, Walk the Moon and Chance the Rapper, and this year’s headliners are Big Gigantic and Misterwives. Slope Day is free for undergrads.
The Department of Performing and Media Arts — known as PMA — hosts their performances at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. The Schwartz Center is at the North end of Collegetown, right at the entrance to Central Campus. Theater, film and dance by students and professionals are performed in several different theaters within the Schwartz. The prices vary, but most are affordable for students and some are free. The shows are finely tuned and well-produced.
The Kitchen Theater Company is downtown, in an intimate theater of about 100 seats. It’s well-produced, thoughtful and relevant theater that’s not as popular among students, but does offer $15 student rush tickets. You have to show up half an hour before the show to request them, and they are subject to availability. They’re usually available, but you do risk making a trip down to the Commons to be out of luck.
Risley Residential College, a program house on North Campus, has a small black-box theater where students put on productions. Some productions are features of weeks of rehearsals and some are lucky if they made it through one. They’re generally very fun and upbeat, and feature great student talent. Tickets are generally $5-10, sold at the door or over Facebook message.
The Johnson Museum
The Johnson Museum, located on the Northwest corner of the Arts Quad, has large permanent collections and several rotating exhibits. It’s always free, and it’s also got great views of the lake, city and valley.
Architecture, Art and Planning students are constantly producing artwork, so there are always galleries in the Art buildings. There’s always student and faculty work on display in Tjaden, Milstein, Sibley and Rand Halls. The exhibits are free and change frequently.