ARTSwego values opinions of student body for event input

Every year, Oswego State organizations and departments announce their annual season of programming. Through these events, there is an emphasis on enhancing the educational experience of Oswego State students. Many times, the events are required for various classes as a way to engage students campus life.

With a strong emphasis on the importance of attendance and involvement from students, it raises the question of the level of involvement of students in planning these events that they are encouraged to see. From committee to committee at Oswego State that answer varies.

A strong force in the arts on campus is ARTSwego. The organization has two committees that determines the programming each season; a programming committee and an oversight committee. The programming committee comes up the ideas for each year while the oversight committee deals with items such as the budget for the programs.

Both committees consist of faculty who represent various spheres of interest in the arts, including theatre, music and visual art. Yet when it comes to student representation, there is only one student for both committees who is appointed by the president of Student Association.

This year, President Steven DiMarzo selected Brandon Owens, a sophomore biology major. As to why he selected Owens, DiMarzo said, "Brandon showed interest in the position and as a student he has the right and responsibility to represent the rest of the students on the committees."

"I think all people are interested in the arts," said Sarah Sterling, president of Blackfriar’s Theatre Organization. Sterling believes there are several reasons why someone may not be a major directly associated with the arts but that should not prevent that person from being active in the arts on campus. Sterling thinks though that there should be a general announcement when the position with the ARTSwego committee is announced so more students can sign up and be involved.

Yet, not every organization or committee on campus follows the same model set by ARTSwego. The theatre department’s play selection committee has four students serving with three faculty members. The students are voted on by their peers at a Blackfriar’s meeting after submitting a resume and giving a speech during a meeting. The committee then submits their suggestions to the faculty for final approval.

Jessica Hester, chair of the theatre department and member of the play selection committee, has seen the impact students have had in choosing the shows, particularly with the student honors production.

"If the students hadn’t been involved in reading the plays or if the students had been lukewarm, it might have been different but when we were aware how passionate students felt about particular plays, that affected the decisions we made," Hester said.

Hester emphasized the importance of students being able to support their decisions beyond the fact they just like a certain play.

"Often times students have opinions but they don’t necessarily back up their opinions with something that can be applied to a decision," Hester explained. "But when students have really loved a play and have articulated clearly why they love it, how they think it fits with the season, how they think it fits with the community, we really listen to it. That makes a really big difference."

On the other hand, the Ke-Nekt chamber music series focuses connecting music faculty with musicians. Students are encouraged to make suggestions but the ultimate decision lies with who the faculty wants to come.

Even with the variations in student involvement in arts programming, all committees and organizations stress the importance of keeping the budget in mind before solidifying their respective seasons. This greatly affects what is brought to campus. Mary Avrakatos, coordinator of ARTSwego, has acknowledged that certain artists have not been brought to campus due to a lack of grant funding. ARTSwego is also funded through their Patrons of the Arts programming as well as the student arts fee, an optional $25 fee in the spring semester.

Other considerations the committees need to keep in mind is if they have large enough staff to support a certain event or show and if the events will produce a balanced season. In addition, they have to consider the greater Oswego community in their decision since many community members come to the events.

Even with all these factors that need to be considered, faculty and staff who work with the committees and organizations stress their focus on students in their choices.

"In the end, if you were weighing things, community (and) students, I weigh on students," Avarakatos said.

"We want to bring people that the students will benefit from," said Trevor Jorgensen, coordinator of the Ke-Nekt series.

"The faculty makes a decision based on the quality of the person they’re bringing in; how it will impact the students involved," Jorgensen said. This includes master classes and free talks with the artists who are brought in.

Despite the intentions of faculty and staff to involve and hear the voices of the students, there are issues that prevent that goal.

According to Avrakatos, they are not able to get as much mass feedback as they want on their various programs due to ARTSwego’s small staff. She says that the majority of the feedback she receives is on a one-on-one basis and would love to have more feedback in the future.