The performing arts are not a priority at St. John’s.
It is evident that the heart and soul of St. John’s University, following their superb academic rank, is athletic pride. From basketball tailgates to soccer rallies, little space is left for the appreciation of the performing arts, physically and emotionally.
There are nine official athletic buildings and fields on the St. John’s campus, but for the performing arts there is only the Little Theater, mainly used by the Chappell Players Theatre Group.
The lack of facilities for the performing arts has forced groups to resort to rehearsing in classrooms, the Sullivan Cafe and any other open space they can find. Nearly every performing arts group has expressed some form of anger or disapproval about this epidemic.
As a member, and secretary, of ReVolution Dance Team and a previous member of Block Party and Dance Concert, I can confidently say that the performing arts are not a great priority at St. John’s University.
It is disappointing because there are too many talented groups fighting their way into events to show off their skills and to receive some sort of well deserved recognition, as well as just to get a space to practice the activities we love to do.
Space wise, classrooms aren’t cutting it. Tara Buttermark, a member of ReVolution Dance Team, has voiced her opinion multiple times and could not be any more correct. She believes it is very difficult to dance in classrooms because there is the issue of fighting to hold down a space due to the fact that so many other organizations are trying to do the same thing. Once a room is found, the chairs take up most of the space. Even after moving them to the sides of the room, space is lacking. On top of all of this, it is hard to correct spacing and mistakes in their dances without mirrors.
The small amount of hope performing arts groups were able to hold onto was the multi-purpose room in Carnesecca Arena. Inevitably, that was taken away from them and has been renovated for the exclusive use of the golf team, according to the Red Storm Athletics Instagram page.
These days, on a typical Thursday night, finding a room for ReVolution to rehearse in is a 30-minute process at least. I don’t believe the baseball team, soccer team or basketball team has this issue.
Athletics programs at St. John’s are important and respected, whereas the perception of the performing arts is not exactly the same. The lack of support from the University is a large influence on the rest of the St. John’s community and their view of the performing arts. Performing arts groups work hard. The metaphorical scale of University support definitely does not lean in favor of the performing arts, which is unacceptable and, in fact, embarrassing.
What many fail to understand is that the arts are more than showtunes and pirouettes. It is an emotional experience, a physical challenge and unites people due to a common love. But, the overall feeling in the performing arts community has changed.
Performing arts groups on campus should encourage each other to be the best group they can be, but that can be difficult when we have to fight each other for rehearsal space. By fight, I mean claim one of the larger classrooms in Marillac Hall or St. John Hall multiple hours before practice even begins, just so a practice is guaranteed.
It is unfair for St. John’s to promote their performing arts programs to prospective students for marketing purposes and then essentially leave these talented performing arts groups stranded, having to deal with space issues, performance bookings and overall arts pride by themselves.
The fight for performing arts respect and aid at St. John’s will only continue, and in fact grow, until something is done about our lack of facilities for the growth and the passion we hold for our craft.