Transy Should Foster Culture of Creativity

Rambler Staff Editorial

Not a seat was left empty in the 1780 Café this past Friday night for the Women’s History Month “Open Mic Night.” The night featured several poets and musicians from the Transylvania community sharing original works and the works of their creative idols. Such a full house shows evidence of the love and appreciation of creative endeavors on this campus. A disturbing pattern, however, arose throughout the night. Various derivatives of the phrase “I have never read my poetry before” crossed the teeth of several performers, suggesting that people with abundant but stifled creative talent lack opportunities to perfect and share their work on our campus, and we as a community cannot afford to wait longer to address this problem.

The creative arts, whether it be music, visual art, drama, poetry, fiction-writing or otherwise, serve as a vital part of our campus culture as a whole. The messages, images or feelings they portray have the power to infiltrate and shape our lives just as much, if not more, than the most powerful, yet strictly academic, lecture. Unfortunately, creative endeavors on Transylvania’s campus often seem overshadowed by strict academics. Very few if any representatives of the university administration and faculty attended Friday night’s open mic night to offer encouragement and support for the creative pursuits of their students. There have been questions raised about the relevancy of choosing an actress, or performing artist, like Mary McDonnell, as a Kenan Lecturer. Creative classes like poetry and fiction workshops are offered sparingly, often only once every other year. … So, is it possible that we as a campus, perhaps unintentionally, could be pigeonholing would-be profound artists into a course of strict academics?

Our campus culture is a unique one. It is a culture that encourages near hyperinvolvement that often leaves little time for anything besides schoolwork at the end of the day. Creativity often gets shuffled to the back burner as we fulfill the many academic, social and organizational burdens required by life at Transylvania.

Our fine arts departments are fantastic. The faculty exudes personal talent and a passion for enabling creative pursuits. The department houses students that could genuinely succeed in their art, bringing themselves and our institution recognition. As it stands, though, it seems that not all, but some such talented students get shuffled into other areas, keeping their art as a minor, perhaps, but majoring in something “practical.” Consequently, they will dedicate less time to the creative growth that could make them not only great but also influential in society.

Of course this traditional perception of the arts as “impractical” is held by our general American culture as well, but Transylvania has the means to break that traditional view and unleash the talent that already resides here. We have the faculty, and we have the interest. All we need now is institutional support and cooperation between all facets of our community to make it happen. More opportunities for students to share their creative talent should be offered. Additionally, more classes dedicated specifically to creative endeavors, like this semester’s Fiction Workshop, should be offered more regularly. We should consider surrounding ourselves with as many people as possible who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of creativity; for example, we may consider having a permanent writer in residence.

Transylvania could unbridle the stifled talent of musicians, poets, actors, artists, playwrights and beyond, all who are lying in wait for an opportunity to emerge. It could produce influential artists of all kinds, and Transylvania would receive the residual benefit of a reputation for breaking the traditional cultural snuffing-out of artistic endeavors. Groups like the writing center, WTLX, Transy on Broadway, the Transylvania Theatre Guild, the Transylvania Student Art League and the various choirs and instrumental performance groups on campus have made great efforts, but as long as we have more support to give them, we should give it.

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