Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

When Moving the Arts, Handle With Care

When Moving the Arts, Handle With Care

By Kathryn Crewe

A few weeks ago, Professor Elizabeth Prelinger, Chair of the Department of Art, Music and Theater, addressed a small audience of excited and concerned representatives from Georgetown University’s performing arts community. The meeting was called in to collect student input on the proposed conversion of the Ryan Administration Building (located behind Copley) into the Ryan Arts Center sometime after ground is broken for the construction of the Southwest Quadrangle. The proposed Ryan Arts Center could potentially provide desperately needed rehearsal, performance, storage and office facilities for already existing performing arts groups on campus. But the building is not being built for already existing performing arts groups. The Ryan Arts Center is being built for the nascent Department of Art, Music and Theater.

Professor Prelinger deserves countless thanks and commendations for her tireless effort to make the arts visible at Georgetown. It is, indeed, embarrassing that a Jesuit institution, which presumes to educate mind, body and soul, has not developed a verifiable academic performing and visual arts department until now. Fortunately for the Georgetown students in search of an artistic outlet beyond their studies in business, nursing, international affairs and liberal arts, a vibrantly autonomous community of acting, singing, dancing and music-making groups has evolved over the years.

Now that Georgetown’s higher-ups have finally decided to promote the arts at Georgetown, one would assume that existing extracurricular performing arts groups would directly benefit from the newfound attention. Instead, they will be forced to compete with the new Department of Art, Music and Theater, not only for attention, but for precious space.

It has been argued that, by adding to existing rehearsal and performance facilities on campus, the construction of the Ryan Arts Center can only ameliorate the struggle between Georgetown’s performing arts groups and the administration over space availability. Logically speaking, the addition of “some space” to “no space” should do the trick. But simultaneously adding space and increasing competition for that space will exacerbate the situation. This project cannot effectively cater to the new department and accommodate the current level of demand, especially since the current level of demand will increase once Ryan is renovated.

The Ryan Arts Center has two major selling points: first, it would be the first building devoted solely to the arts at Georgetown, and second, it would justify the eviction of many performing arts groups from other facilities on campus, clearing up space for new projects. Only one performance ensemble on campus, ask & Bauble, currently claims existing facilities as its own. ost of the other performing arts groups consider themselves as having regular haunts – borrowed space in Old North or Yates. any of these groups will be asked to abandon their havens upon completion of the new arts center.

Given its nearly 150-year history as a veritable campus institution, Mask & Bauble will prevail based on tradition. Nomadic, on the other hand, may not only lose its part-time home in Walsh’s Hall of Nations to the expanding studio and visual arts department, but will subsequently gain no designated space in the Ryan Arts Center.

Georgetown’s musical groups may also suffer. The administration had earmarked a $2 million donation – which the GU Orchestra and Concert Choir helped to solicit at last fall’s Gala – for the establishment of a permanent chair for the music department. As the senior faculty director for the music department, the new chairperson will oversee and promote the development of new departmental programs, not existing extracurricular musical groups, in the intended Ryan Arts Center.

Most underrepresented in the Ryan debate are Georgetown’s dance performance groups, including Black Movements Dance Theater, Ballet Folklorico Mexicano and the GU Dance Company. The dancers’ struggle for space in Ryan is not a matter of competition with parallel departmental interests – it is a matter of gaining general recognition of dance, Georgetown’s invisible art. Most dancers who come to Georgetown could not care less about gaining academic credit for their efforts. They simply want safe places to rehearse and perform. Unfortunately, it seems that establishing a department is the key to obtaining designated space for an art form in the Ryan Arts Center. This is not an option the administration will soon consider for dance. Extracurricular dance groups will, therefore, be forced into competition with extracurricular theater groups, who will, in turn, be competing with departmental theater groups for rehearsal space in Ryan.

As the administration will contend, the dance companies could always stick to their old turf in the field house. For years, dancers have rehearsed in the exercise rooms at Yates, vying for coveted time slots with aerobics, biking and judo instructors. These rooms provide inadequate space and feature floors that are dangerously unequipped for dancers. Whether the dancers remain in Yates, benefit from Ryan’s spoils or gain their own designated space in vacated facilities elsewhere on campus, all they really want is a certifiable dance studio with mirrors, barres and a properly sprung floor, so that they can finally kick – excuse the expression – their shin splints and joint pain.

The administration’s interest in supporting extracurricular arts at Georgetown is real. Without the students who comprise the many independent organizations associated with the Office of Performing Arts (OPA), the new department would have little following or support. In addition, prospective students who might be interested in Georgetown’s new Art, Music and Theater department will probably also want to act, sing, dance or play an instrument outside of the classroom, and will note the extent to which this aspect of campus life is encouraged and supported when they decide where to attend school.

Professor Prelinger has expressed her desire to bridge the gap between the academic art department and existing student groups by encouraging them to complement, rather than compete with, each other through the development of the Ryan Arts Center. On a campus where 13 previously existing performance groups are already in competition for funding, this is a lofty ideal. Accommodation must accompany, if not precede, expansion.

Kathryn Crewe is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and the former student director of the Georgetown University Dance Company.

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