As a recent graduate of Macalester, I was privileged to both witness and work on several performances in my four years. Many were with the Theatre and Dance Department (THDA) on the main stage or in the basement level Black Box. Several were in The Loch, 10K, JBD or some other devised space on campus. Of these, the space that encouraged the highest level of creativity and cooperation between student artists was 10K. Numerous different student organizations shared the space and storage, providing our campus with an intimate setting to enjoy avant garde comedy, slam poetry, musical theatre and an opportunity to simply bask in the collective creative force that emanates from the hearts of so many Macalester students.
I can only trust that that ‘creative force’ will inspire and sustain student artists as they adapt to the recent closure of 10K. Macalester artists are resilient, and I firmly believe that the closing of one space will not stop them from engaging with creative processes and developing artistic products.
However, there must be a home for student-generated performance on this campus, and the administration has failed to provide viable alternatives. The rehearsal restrictions in the Loch, the already over-programmed schedule of many spaces, and common respect for the unique purpose of certain locations, like the chapel, has left student organizations with a dilemma. Where and how will they make work?
One potential solution lies in the completion of the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center renovations, when the Macalester administration will finally break ground on a new (or significantly updated) theatre and dance building. I encourage all members of the Macalester community to educate themselves on the history of the THDA renovation plan, including the fact that the current building is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and that increased enrollment in theatre and dance classes has recently led to overcrowded classrooms where cracks in the wall or ceiling can allow snow to sometimes sneak into the building.
The first two phases of the renovation, the new music and studio art buildings, were completed in 2012 and 2014 respectively. It is well past time for the administration to begin work on, or public fundraising efforts toward, the neglected third phase: renovating the THDA building. With this new building will come more space for student programming, including, just maybe, a space that fosters that scrappy artistic spirit which used to find a home in 10K.
Macalester’s THDA already supports students in several ways: opening department spaces to student rehearsals when available, providing mentorship to student artists and encouraging the development of technical skills for projections, lights, safety and sound. Though the THDA is already functioning at maximum capacity, the campus administration has been extremely slow to even release a timeline for the third phase of renovations.
Students deserve a dedicated space for making performances. And if the administration had taken proactive steps toward the THDA renovations, student organizations would already have an additional dedicated space for making performance, with the added bonus of built-in departmental support. Unfortunately because of the administration’s inaction, student performance organizations are now faced with a difficult 2016-17 production season and potentially uncertain futures. Advocate for your artistic spaces, students.
Publicly support student artists and audiences, members of the faculty and staff.
Listen and take action, campus administrators.