After my first month at Georgetown University, I realized something was missing.
My name is Sophia Rose Monsalvo, and I am the founder of Georgetown’s art club, VIISIIONS. I created this club so students would have a community focused on visual arts outside the university’s course offerings.
I remember walking back-and-forth across Copley Lawn and Red Square during CAB Fair, searching table after table for a non-literary magazine club that was focused on creating a community for artists. And there were none.
Coming to Georgetown as a low-income, Black, Colombian, queer woman, I knew that the majority of spaces on campus were not curated for people that look like me. This meant that I would have to create a space of my own in which creatives could thrive. When I saw the lack of a student art community, I knew that part of my role as a student would be to curate and facilitate one.
Georgetown has an innumerable number of resources available to students on campus that check off almost every box except one — a community for visual artists. The energy, emphasis and equity that this university instills in athletics, research, consulting and community service towers in comparison to investment in the arts.
Outside of traditional for-credit art courses, the university does not offer students substantial resources to engage in the visual arts. One of the only creative spaces on campus that is open to all students is the Maker Hub in Lauinger Library, which offers 3D printing, textile work, laser cutting, printmaking, bookbinding, woodworking and arts and crafts. I began volunteering with the Maker Hub only a few weeks into my time at Georgetown, and I realized that with these artistic resources, Georgetown would be the perfect place to start a community for visual artists. So one evening, I sat down, created a Google Form and designed a flyer with the link to the form that I hung around campus over the next week.
That form received over 80 responses within the first week. The multitude of responses invoked a variety of emotions: excitement, anxiety and hopefulness — but also disbelief. There were over 80 people that saw these posters in one week, and they jumped on the opportunity to join a club for artists about which they knew little to nothing. Something that seemed so minuscule as posting flyers around campus actually had the potential to positively affect the lives of over 80 people. I was entrusted with the hopes of these students for an art space on campus.
Working with the Maker Hub, VIISIIONS holds meetings and art workshops on Sundays. These workshops have included mosaic paintings for the club banner, sketchbook cover collages and open studios. The biggest challenge for these workshops, however, has been funding. Since VIISIIONS is a new club, we do not yet have sufficient school funding — and thus, many of the supplies must be purchased out-of-pocket or donated by other students.
But lack of funding in the art department is a greater issue for Georgetown institutionally. The university’s art classes do not have enough space to accommodate all of the students that are interested in taking them.
I was recently lucky enough to get a seat in an introductory acrylic painting class, yet I am one of only two first-years in a class dominated by seniors. If there were a seat in every art classroom for every student wanting one, the Georgetown art department could be revolutionary.
Unfortunately, the reality is that most students have to wait at least two to three semesters before they can take an art class. Georgetown diverts much-needed resources away from the art department, and, as such, students are left scrambling to figure out how to get the very limited spots in studio classes, how to afford hundreds of dollars worth of art supplies per class and how to connect with other art students at a school where the culture emphasizes everything but creativity and eccentricity.
The university needs to encourage art and creativity just as much as it does ingenuity and resourcefulness in fields like business and international relations. Art can be the foundation for any major or field: with art comes creativity, and with creativity comes empathy. Every student on campus should be able to connect with this side of themselves, but if the university never facilitates nor ignites this passion, students are robbed of the opportunity to connect with themselves and their communities through art and expression.
The university needs more classroom studio spaces, scholarships to fund student art supplies, financial resources for the art department, murals on campus, university-sponsored creative workshops and engagement with local galleries. Georgetown needs to see creating an art community as just as important as replacing the turf on Cooper Field or bringing speakers to campus.
Sophia Rose Monsalvo is a first-year student in the School of Foreign Service.
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