ARTSwego Director Mary Avrakotos sits at her desk with a poster of Pakistani musician Arif Lohar spread out on the floor in front of her. Lohar is not well known in the United States, but he is a superstar in his native Pakistan.
“One of his YouTube videos is up to almost 8,000,000 hits,” Avrakotos said.
Lohar was on Oswego State’s campus from Monday until Wednesday as part of Caravanserai, Oswego State’s year-long exploration of Pakistani arts and culture. Students and faculty had a chance to see Lohar in concert at the Campus Center Arena, as well as the oppurtunity to attend classes and workshops led by him.
Oswego State students can pat themselves on the back for making opportunities of this magnitude possible.
ARTSwego is the program responsible for most of the concerts and extra-curricular arts activities available to students and faculty on the Oswego State campus. ARTSwego would not be able to put on concerts and run the programs it does without funding provided by the arts fee, paid by students each spring semester.
“What we’re trying to help foster is a lifetime of participating in the arts,” Avrakotos said.
The student arts fee is $25. Avrakotos said the money from this fee, along with money from external grants and ticket sales, is used to fund a lot of the events and programs ARTSwego puts on around campus. These include the Performing Arts series, the Ke-nekt’ Chamber Music Series, the Living Writers Series and several different workshops and classes for both students and faculty. ARTSwego also puts funding in with student run radio station WNYO for the musical artists who come to campus as part of the Oswego Indie Series.
Avrakotos said it is important for students to get out of their dorm rooms and enjoy the arts that are available to them and made possible by the arts fee.
“Somehow we have to drive home that there’s a difference between watching a video and going to a live performance,” Avrakotos said.
“Telling Tales: The Arts and Discovery” is a program funded by ARTSwego. The program explores the many different ways humans tell stories through the use of art, literature, music and performance. Five resident artists were brought in to assist students and faculty with hands-on workshops, including Paul Rajeckas, Cynthia Hopkins and Christopher Monger.
Avrakotos spoke highly of these artists and the program itself, saying the experiences students get from these workshops sticks with them longer than what they learn in classes.
“You forget what you learned on the test,” Avrakotos said. “You never forget the transformative experience.”
Avrakotos also stressed the importance of these programs being able to reach and have an impact on students in all majors, not just the ones related to the arts.
“What the effort is here is to say that creativity is a core value, it is something we need to teach,” Avrakotos said. “We don’t need to teach it to theatre students.We don’t need to teach it to music students. We don’t need to teach it to art students. We need to embrace it for all the disciplines. In our world that is changing so rapidly, creative thinking is what everyone is going to need to do.”
Oswego State’s location compared to universities located in large metropolitan areas plays a role in the need to provide students with more chances to enjoy the arts on campus.
“We have a large residential campus,” said Fritz Messere, dean of the School of Communication, Media and the Arts. “You find that there’s opportunities that are appropriate to a residential campus that might not be needed if the campus was in downtown New York City.”
Cynthia Clabough, chair of the Art Department at Oswego State, said the arts fee started as a way for students to collectively fund an arts series at the school. She said it is important for programs such as the ones funded by ARTSwego to continue to run because the programs bring students, faculty and the community together.
“Without student’s fees, it wouldn’t be possible for it to be as outstanding as it is,” Clabough said.
Clabough also pointed out that it is not only students, but faculty as well who contribute to the arts fee. She said these programs and events help students and faculty to work together on many different levels.
“Through faculty collaboration comes student collaboration,” Clabough said. “That’s the real goal.”
Clabough added that Oswego State acts as the cultural center for the entire county of Oswego.
“Students not only are giving themselves an incredible gift, but giving the community an incredible gift,” Clabough said. “Without the arts fee, the students would have a cultural desert on campus.”
The student arts fee is a key component to keeping arts programs funded and allowing Oswego State to offer a wide range of activities for students of all areas of study.
“We want to have activities related to what’s appropriate to students and have a diverse set of programs,” Messere said. “The arts fee helps to do that.”