Courtesy of The State Theatre of Ithaca

August 27, 2019

SIMS | How to See Art at Cornell Without Really Trying

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When I arrived on campus three years ago, I joined The Sun’s Arts and Entertainment staff with hot — well, charred — takes like “movies shouldn’t be moralizing” and “The Beatles suck,” fatally combined with an unshakeable urge to prove myself as a well-informed and brilliantly critical art buff.

I was neither of those things, nor am I now, and my takes are not much better than leftovers coming out of a dorm microwave (stale, lukewarm or bubbling over into an unsalvageable mess). Nonetheless, on my journey to being a somewhat more competent and self-effacing arts columnist, I feel like I at least picked up some of the critical pieces to being a well-rounded art fan at Cornell.

Live Music

 The Haunt gets consistently good small-to-medium bands with entirely reasonable entrance fees of $10-20. You can usually buy your ticket at the door, but some of the more exciting acts do sell out beforehand. You can’t get back from the Haunt by TCAT (the 17 bus, which passes The Haunt, stops running about 9 p.m.), but the walk back to West Campus is under half-an-hour, and now that ridesharing is available in Ithaca, splitting the cost of a ride back is a common solution. The State Theater is expensive and geared toward an older generation of townies and regional folks, but occasionally gets an act worth buying a $60-or-so ticket for.

Ithaca Underground puts together shows at The Haunt and other locations around town (The Chanticleer, Sacred Root, and others), emphasizing DIY music and supporting local artists. They’re a not-for-profit and do great work at making engaging and inclusive spaces for underground music.

Last, but certainly not least: the house show. When I went to my first house show here, I was shocked; wasn’t this something that only happened in teen movies? Were all of the interviews of musicians I read about the early days of their music careers, talking about house shows and couch surfing and mini-van driving, truthful? Something about the mystique of the house show still hasn’t worn off for me, and they really do seem dreamy and stunning every time. Maybe someday my romantic goggles for them will wear off, but I sure hope they don’t. Fanclub Collective puts on these great shows, and they’ve already got two planned for next month.


 Movie tickets at the big chain theaters have gotten so expensive that I can barely ever justify stopping in to see a movie (much less buy a $7 small popcorn). But $7 tickets for undergrads, and a screening schedule full of gems, make Cornell Cinema a true marvel of art and entertainment on campus. And, if you like yourself a night at the movies, you can get an annual pass for free admission to regular screenings at the Cinema for $20 for students. The last time I went to the Ithaca Regal Theater, I spent more than that on a matinee screening of Mamma Mia 2 and a box of Sour Patch Watermelons. (Every now and then, it’s worth every penny.)

Cinemapolis is another favorite place of mine, with great films, a comfortable theater and $9 student tickets. Despite being one of the most convenient places to get from campus (right off the Commons), I feel like I’m peacefully in another world if I can forget about my looming assignments for long enough to enjoy the movie. Plus, they’ve got a fun snack bar with great popcorn and lots of options (for an almost reasonable price!)


 I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never been to a performance at the Schwartz (other than the required diversity and inclusion play during Orientation), but my good friend whose hard work I’ve neglected to appreciate instead of seeing the shows she worked on assures me “it’s not shitty like high school theater.”

The shows I’ve seen at Risley have been fun and low-key (and a lot closer than Schwartz to my north campus abode), but they’re highly variable. It’s worth keeping an ear out for the gems, but that can hardly be considered “without really trying.”

If you’re looking to be really well cultured, The Kitchen Theater Company downtown usually has something on, and they’re always trying out really interesting stories that grapple with current or historical issues. Don’t get too scared by the ticket prices on their website, if you show up before show time, they often have extra (rush, for those in on the lingo) tickets that they’ll sell at a discount to students.


 You could take a 5-hour bus ride to go to The Met or the MoMA, or whatever other cultural institutions you can access via the Ithaca bus station, or you can stop by the Johnson during the class day, on your way home, when your parents come to visit, on a Tinder date – you name it, it’s low-effort, high-reward collection right on the Arts Quad. The new exhibitions are worth checking out each semester, you just might find they have something you love on display, like I did last semester with the Geology in European and American painting.

People more in-touch and up-to-date than I keep up with the AAP School’s exhibitions and other events, which display the art of students and faculty, as well as bring in guest speakers and artists. There’s a wealth of good work available if you’re willing to look for it.


Katie Sims is a senior in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]Resident Bad Media Critic runs alternate Tuesdays this semester.