A Campus Infused With Art

In preparing my syllabus for a seminar on photography and philosophy, I’ve been thinking about how the arts and the other academic programs intersect at Wesleyan. The recent lectures and concerts of Music and Public Life were a great example of such intersections. And in general, I’m just so impressed by the variety and quality of creative work on campus. Here’s just a sampling as we begin the week before the Thanksgiving break.

Tomorrow, Monday November 12, English Prof. Lisa Cohen will be giving a talk at the Center for Humanities entitled “Minerals Alone Escape It: Mourning Time.” She will read “from work in progress, a multi-genre project about the temporalities of friendship, illness, grief, and activism in the context of the AIDS crisis. A book in three parts and three genres, it also dramatizes three different historical moments, their echoes and discontinuities.” Lisa’s recent and very successful book, All We Know, also has three parts — delicate, incisive biographies of Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta and Madge Garland. Lisa brings art and research together in stunning ways.

Speaking of bringing art and research together, I am very much looking forward to Rinde Eckert‘s play “The Last Days of Old Wild Boy,” which presents a man who, having been raised by wolves, has “risen” to heights of culture and success. But he wants to go back to the wildnerness of his early years… What does it mean to go back to one’s animality, to one’s wild youth? Rinde is a musician, composer, playwright and (by all accounts) an extraordinary artist. This play has been commissioned by the Center for the Arts and has benefited from the involvement of students and faculty. Performances from Thursday-Saturday.

Tomorrow (Monday) night Benh Zeitlin ’04 Michael Gottwald ’06, and Dan Janvey ’06 of Beasts of the Southern Wild will be at the Goldsmith Family Cinema at the Center for Film Studies at 8 pm to talk about about their extraordinary movie. Check out the exhibition about the film in the Rick Nicita Gallery there.

And on Wednesday, New York Times jazz and pop music critic Ben Ratliff will be talking in the Daltry Room (Rehearsal Hall 003) at the CFA.

Let’s not forget the drawing workshop, a great place for those who want to develop their figure drawing practice. Students gather every Monday, 4:30-6pm in Art Workshops 105.

The arts…intersecting with almost everything we do at Wesleyan.


Broadening Your Aural Experience at Wesleyan

I bumped into a Wesleyan student recently who told me about a wonderful website about music at Wes: auralwes.org. It is a terrific compendium of some of the great music being performed on campus. As far as I know, the site is completely independent of the official Wesleyan powers. Hats off to the students who have put this together!

Over the last couple of years, when high school juniors and seniors ask me about the various options among high quality liberal arts colleges, I tell them about a potential litmus test for the schools they are visiting. All the highly selective schools have great faculty devoted to teaching and research, and all of them attract interesting and talented students. One way to tell them apart, to determine the personalities of the schools, is to look into the musical subcultures of the colleges and universities. If a prospective student doesn’t care about musical culture at all, obviously this isn’t an appropriate “test”. But such a student might not be all that happy at Wes in any case. The vibrancy and dynamism of the student musical culture combined with the dedication to diversity and experimentation in the music department are essential ingredients of the Wesleyan experience. Whether you sing, play or just listen, music is something not to be missed at Wes.

So, check out the music department’s website, and check out auralwes.org. It’s unlikely that you will be attracted to everything that you hear. You may even be offended by some of the language. But if you open your ears, mind and heart, it is likely that you will expand your horizons and broaden  your aesthetic and musical experience. And that’s why auralwes is essential Wes!