The second annual Arts Weekend took place this past Friday through Sunday. A weekend dedicated to showcasing the extensive range of visual and performing arts programs at Swarthmore, it included over 30 different events that students, alumni and friends of the college were invited to attend.
According to Susan Clarey, one of the Communications Office directors, the Arts Weekend was instituted by President Rebecca Chopp two years ago.
“[President Chopp] felt that it was important to recognize the arts at some point in the year, and because it’s hard to cram everything onto homecoming weekend and most arts groups are not ready to present their work in the fall, we decided to have an event in the spring,” Clarey said.
Michael Cothren, chair of the art department and art history professor, was chosen to give the faculty lecture, titled “Teaching Art History in an Era of Globalism: Liberal Arts, Visual Literacy, and Social Responsibility.” As Arts Weekend centers around the place of arts in the liberal arts institution, he decided to discuss art history as a study that will prepare its students to be “critical consumers of the imagery that bombards them” and to be engaged with products of other cultures, allowing for empathy and a “reluctance to accept stereotypes.” The lecture emphasized that art history, like any other subject in the liberal arts context, can be just as relevant in providing students with the necessary tools to become responsible citizens.
“I really enjoyed giving the talk,” he said. “It gave me an opportunity to step back and think broadly about what I do.”
Along with the faculty lecture, the weekend hosted art gallery exhibits that displayed seniors’ works, open dance rehearsals, sports events, a cappella and chorus performances (by student and alumni groups), jazz ensemble and orchestra concerts, poetry readings, and even a performance of the critically-acclaimed off-Broadway play “Chimera,” which featured three Swarthmore alumni.
Among the events was also the student dance group Rhythm and Motion (RnM) performance, which filled up the LPAC Pearson-Hall Theater.
“Arts Weekend was slightly overwhelming,” RnM dancer Chris Green ’14 said. “They were turning people away [from our show], they didn’t have enough programs. It was the tenth anniversary since RnM was created so we had alumni come back to see the show and perform with us … There were a lot of new things happening together but it was exciting to see so many people come out to support us.”
According to Cothren, who has been teaching at Swarthmore for over 30 years, the Arts Weekend is especially important for the college because of its past unwillingness to accept the value of arts programs. When the art history professor first came here, there was actually a limit on the arts credits that you could use for graduation.
“The college actively discouraged exploration of the arts,” he said. “So I think that the idea of highlighting them is especially important because of our history of reluctance. It’s a kind of celebration of how far we’ve moved beyond that.”
The event, which was free to students, faculty, alumni and friends of the college alike, had approximately 600 registered guests, according to Clarey. Because some of the events were not ticketed (and therefore did not require registration), she believes that the number of attendees was even greater. Compared to last year, the turnout and number of events were much higher.