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Put the “arts” back in the “liberal arts”

April 14, 2022

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

The Offer of the College promises students that while at Bowdoin, they will be able to “count … Art an intimate friend.” Although the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) holds a prominent place on campus, the College’s investment in other aspects of the arts is lacking.

For instance, the visual and performing arts (VPA) distribution requirement encourages students to value the arts as a fundamental part of their Bowdoin experience. Yet many visual arts courses come with a high cost for materials that deter students from developing a more committed interest in these fields. Bowdoin should cover the full cost of materials for these courses for all students to allow engagement in artistic exploration within the academic program.

While student athletes enter a recruitment process that bolsters their chance of admission to the College, student artists can submit arts supplements that contain a portfolio of work. These supplements are just one component of many that goes into an applicant’s candidacy for admission to the College. Athletic recruitment undoubtedly plays a larger role in a student’s admission, and this double standard exists at the downfall of student artists.

Prospective students invest time into fostering skills in the arts as athletes invest in their sports; however, they are not recruited at the same rate or vigor. When student athletes arrive on campus, they are welcomed into a community that values their skills and supports their athletic growth. Student artists are not connected with the same mentorship, funds or demonstrated interest and pride from the Bowdoin community.

Besides this lack of institutional support and recruitment from the College, once artists do make it to campus, they are met with underappreciation.

For example, Bowdoin’s student bands are often called upon to provide entertainment for campus events but are rarely paid for their time. Having moved the Spring Concert from Ivies weekend to early April, the administration plans to recruit student bands to play on the Quad during the Saturday of Ivies.

If the administration expects student bands to be the backbone of this year’s Ivies music offerings, the College should pay them—for their time spent in rehearsal, setting up and taking down equipment as well as working the gigs themselves. With Ivies weekend falling during one of the busiest weeks in the academic calendar, band members are being asked to sacrifice their valuable study time for hours of rehearsal without compensation. Pay student musicians for the work they do on this campus.

If the College invested financial resources and recruitment efforts into recognizing and supporting artists on campus, we would be better for it.

It’s time for Bowdoin to aid students in counting art as “an intimate friend” by putting the “arts” back in “the liberal arts.”

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, which is comprised of Ari Bersch, Sophie Burchell, Aura Carlson, Diego Lasarte, Jane Olsen, Lily Randall, Emma Sorkin, Ayub Tahlil and Cole van Miltenburg.


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