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“Liberal arts” needs the arts

By Fiona McElrath
Staff Writer

crest_line_LLB_stack_colorIt is no secret that the arts departments at Georgetown College are small, with no performing arts building and a temporary black box theatre from the 70s.

Despite the lack of numbers, they are an endearing bunch of students and have wonderful professors to help them out. Even so, with new leadership comes new challenges, among which are budget cuts. While money affects all departments, the arts are, in my experience, the first to be dropped.

But without the arts, what are we? What is society without culture, beauty, grace—er, I mean, without music, art and theater?

In general, the arts programs are underfunded, as well as the first ones to be cut when funding runs low. However, this way of doing things is rather counter intuitive when one thinks about it; after all, where do all the artists, actors, singers and directors that we hear, see, and appreciate come from?

It is true that Leonardo da Vinci learned to be an artist in part from math and science, but he learned to paint from studying art itself.

In the Renaissance, the arts were the Pinterest, iTunes and television of the time, and in a way, the arts have given us movies, music and photography, all of which are things we Americans all but worship.

The arts produce the artists, actors, singers and directors who make these things possible. The arts also aid education by simply being a creative outlet. Art therapy can be a way for many people to channel their emotions or inner thoughts, and the same is true for actors and musicians. That being the case, why is it that our schools deem these things unnecessary?

That is not to say that the arts are more important than every other subject; quite the contrary! As stated above, Leonardo da Vinci was merely one of a number of artists who perfected their skill through science, and the famous playwright William Shakespeare was an actor as well as director and creator of half the English language.

If these great men of 400 years ago could be multidisciplinary with a more limited number of mediums to work with, why can’t we, in this day and age, with more technology and knowledge, be even better?

Back to the arts departments of Georgetown College— the lack of money, while inconvenient, also provides an opportunity to be even more creative.
During the creation of the set for the opera, Pirates of Pinafore, the music department raided their storage unit for set pieces and built the entire set essentially from old set pieces.

Similarly, the theater department is constantly reusing costumes and props and set materials, with a perpetual show budget of, in one professor’s words, “a dollar fifty.” These circumstances, while challenging, do allow these creative people to use their craft that much more.

Still, it is important that we support the arts, both at Georgetown College and outside of it, even if it’s just going to see a play every now and then.
The arts are not a thing of the past, and while one does not have to speak five languages and write plays and sonnets or know what Petrarchan love is, it is still a noble thing to strive for knowledge. Read a book. Listen to music. Go see a play. Be a life-long learner, like Faustus or Milton or your very own professors.

Georgetown has many departments and many opportunities for all students to branch out and try something different, and the arts are not the least among them.

We cannot call ourselves a liberal arts college if we do not have the arts, and what would that make us? A liberal arts school without the arts? We would just be liberal!