Should CMC Start Embracing the Arts?

New sounds echo throughout the lounge in Stark Hall. Melodies – lovely and not-so-lovely – from residents and passersby fill the hall. Stark, known as “the quiet dorm,” has just acquired a piano in its television room. It’s the only dorm with a piano so far, arguably because it is the only dorm that could maintain one without destroying it in less than two Thursdays. Residents had been calling for a piano in the lounge for some time, but its appearance may serve an ulterior motive while also satisfying Starkies’ demands. While many students who came into CMC with strong backgrounds in their high school bands, orchestras or art programs have adjusted to CMC’s lack of an art program, some still ask for CMC to change its ways.

Sophomore Chelsea Durgin says, “Students would really benefit from art as an outlet to the stress of school… I think that a lot of students at CMC are extremely talented in the arts, but they can’t express themselves because of the CMC reputation.”

For students from neighboring schools and artistically-inclined CMCers, the school's image as a leadership-driven institution for go-getters has left its commitment to the art world by the wayside. CMC has abandoned some traits of average liberal arts schools and become the economics-oriented school that it is, but as Durgin says, this doesn’t mean that CMC students are devoid of any artistic talent.

The idea of pursuing art on campus has inched into the spotlight with the appearance of Stark’s new piano and with growing involvement with arts organizations at the 5Cs. Yet, some students still argue that CMC is not currently an art-friendly school and believe that there is a stigma associated with pursuing a degree in the arts.

Freshman Becca Rosenthal says, “At the very least we can start putting student artwork in Kravis, but ideally there should be an arts GE.” Those who are proponents of larger changes to CMC’s image like Rosenthal argue that the school could start embracing its liberal arts label by requiring students to study art.

For other students, calling Claremont McKenna a liberal arts school is almost a misnomer. CMC has a unique approach to providing students with a well-rounded education: we receive the benefits of a liberal arts school, yet we’re unlike any other. One of the things that sets us apart is a focus on creating leaders in business and the professions. Advocates of CMC's leadership-oriented mission point out that our access to the resources at the other 4Cs – including arts programs like theater, music, studio art, and art history – allow us to bypass the implementation of our own arts program.

Indeed, those who actively pursue the arts have many opportunities, even as a CMC student, to be involved in the arts. A CMC-specific theater club Under the Lights allows students an outlet for artistic expression. Other 5C opportunities include taking part in KSPC, Pomona’s student radio station; an acapella choir like Shades; or Without a Box, the Claremont Colleges’ improv group. For those students willing to integrate with the rest of the 5Cs, the abundance of artistic opportunities on our neighboring campuses offer CMCers a chance to pursue their artistic passions with ease. The beauty of the consortium is that each of the schools can specialize in a few fields, instead of attempting to do everything at once, which would be redundant and ineffective.

The accessibility of the other Claremont Colleges and their strengths in the arts balance out the unique liberal arts appeal of CMC. The administration faces a choice between encouraging the appreciation of art at CMC and offering art programs on CMC’s campus. But one thing is sure: when it comes to whether art should be more encouraged on campus or remain an untouched issue, Freshman Erika Sa says, “I want more!” The best resolution is for CMC to encourage students to appreciate and participate in some form of art, but continue to utilize the other art programs in the Claremont Consortium instead of devoting resources and time to building a new one at CMC. In other words, take advantage of the resources that the consortium offers.

CMC students’ interest in pursuing art academically is less common perhaps than at other 5C institutions. Appeals for drastic changes to CMC’s academic focus seem to be coming from a unique group of students who would like CMC to acknowledge the importance of art by offering art programs on campus. However, this desire does not seem to apply to most students and thus no change will likely be made.

But CMC students as a whole do not disregard the arts entirely. The claim that students don’t care about art because CMC is a school focused on a couple of strong programs is simply not true. It is true, however, tacking on an art department to CMC's academic offerings would not increase the benefit to CMC students enough to justify the cost. It would be both widely beneficial and much easier for the student body to simply ask CMC for more on-campus practice rooms or to see more student-made art in the hallways of our dorms. Adding small things like pianos or providing an area just to hang out and play music would give CMC some artistic flavor of its own. We don’t have to drop our reputation as a school of industrious students in order to appreciate the arts – we can embrace it without becoming a run-of-the-mill liberal arts school. With the new piano in Stark and the ever-growing involvement of students in artistic programs on and off campus, it seems like we’re on the right track.