UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Cool Thing: State of the Arts at UMB

This will be the last column that I will write as Arts Editor of The Mass Media. As such, I would like to say a few words about my experience during my time as editor.

I have to say I honestly enjoyed it. I also learned a few things. I learned that we have a lot of very talented artists here on campus, both students and teachers. I learned that we have a lot of good people in our student centers and organizations who are devoted to broadening the cultural horizons of our university through their efforts to organize meaningful events and publications. I learned that we have a number of creative and highly skilled teachers and faculty members who are not just artistically active on a professional level but are as equally devoted to expanding the artistic horizons of their students and fostering artistic growth. I also learned something about community, kinship and the importance of being culturally informed, particularly in such a pluralistic cultural setting as we live in, both on campus and in the world.

Thinking back over the articles I have written over my time at the paper, I notice certain recurring themes of community-building, cultural equality and social responsibility. These themes are due less to my own interests than to an overriding concern on behalf of the artists and organizers here to present art with a social focus. This is in part because of the nature of our school, which is a crossroads of many diverse cultures and backgrounds. It is more largely due to the students and faculty who put together the events and who exhibit a sense of world awareness that is very satisfied with artistic accomplishment alone. To experience works of such consistent aesthetic success is one thing, to see such success in the company of social relevance, time and time again in a way that is neither preachy nor pretentious, is really impressive. From music and theater and dance to painting, photography and writing, the artists here at UMB have consistently impressed me with their creativity and skill, as well as with their sense of social purpose. The same goes for the student centers that deserve a big round of applause, as well as possibly a bit more financial backing, for having coordinated a series of outstanding events that have continued to educate and entertain the student population. The high standing of the guest speakers brought to campus, like playwright Ed Bullins and novelist Chinua Achebe, also deserves note. All in all, I have found the events I have attended to be highly engaging and, with very few exceptions, I have come away from each of them with the feeling of having learned something new, something valuable. This work is going on tirelessly and quietly in the background all around us all the time and thanks to my job at the paper I am more aware of the thriving artistic life of our university.

I only wish more people were. It is unfortunate that such hard work has sometimes been obscured by poor scheduling and lack of publicity. I would urge the students who are putting such obvious dedication into their projects to be more vocal about notifying the public, and The Mass Media, about upcoming events. We at the paper want students to know about you just as much you do. Just let us know. Granted, even this will probably not solve the problem of poor student turnout. I cannot say how many times I have attended well executed, professional and entertaining events that were marred only by the lack of an audience.

I feel that I have been privileged to interact with such talented people and to experience such entertaining and educational events. I only wish that more students here on campus would take advantage of the opportunities open to them to engage with the exciting cultural life of their school. I know that when I first came to UMB, I did not take advantage of the opportunities open to me, and I regret it. I understand, because it is my situation too, that it is hard due to the commuter/worker nature of the school to take the time to get involved. Nonetheless, it is important that we try.

Because we do not go to a school where we all live and work on campus, where we do not have the kind of natural community spirit that develops out of that situation, it is all the more important that we support the community building efforts of our student artists and organizations whenever we can. This is not about some sentimental idea of school spirit; this is about recognizing the efforts of our peers and colleagues who need our continued support to be successful. Art cannot exist in a vacuum, and neither can we. Engaging in the artistic life of the campus makes the student experience here less isolated, less socially empty. While the academic courses we take nourish our minds, it is the arts that nourish our hearts and souls, that make our school a less lifeless and dry place to be.

On that note, a word to the administration: the cutting of funding to artistic projects and programs, and the shrinking of the already too small artistic departments on campus, is one of the worst mistakes we can make as a university. The arts are our lifeblood, without them we run the risk of cultural seizure. They enhance the educational curriculum and make going to school a less autonomous experience. If we wish to stand out as university that fosters cultural exchange, that is truly dedicated to enriching our students’ understanding and appreciation of the world they live in, then we have an obligation to support artistic and cultural activity on campus.

While I look forward to the Spring semester’s events, it would be nice to see the school funnel some of the events money they spend on bringing big names to campus to the student artists who work here every day and to support their own students’ shows with the kind of money and publicity they use elsewhere. Having a well-known reggae group perform on campus is cool and certainly draw the student body together, but having a well supported art department (and I include theater, music and creative writing here as well) where students have the opportunities and tools they need to flourish as artists is far cooler, and, I should add, essential.

We need to think about priorities, about community and supporting each other. This holds for the administration, the student organizations, the faculty and the students who attend campus events. Each of us needs to be better about engaging with and making work a valuable and impressive artistic community, which is already here just waiting to be recognized with the kind of respect it deserves.

I would also like to recommend anyone with an interest in the arts on campus to become involved with The Mass Media. It’s a great experience with a lot of opportunities and, to be honest, we need writers. Being Arts Editor here was more than a job to me: it was a learning experience and it was a lot of fun. I only hope that my work for the paper was as entertaining and informative as the work that inspired it.

It’s been a very cool thing. Thank you and good night.