Give art a chance

The arts scene at Queen’s is invaluable to campus, and can only grow with greater student support and engagement

Photo: 

Ciarán Meyer, ArtSci ‘15

There are a ton of phenomenal film and theatre opportunities coming out of Queen’s these days — but it’s up to students to get involved and value the arts community.

As a film major at Queen’s, I’ve been heavily invested in the film scene here in Kingston over the past four years, and it’s been invaluable to my experience as an undergraduate student.

My first film of undergrad — titled Lazy Daze — got a few laughs at the Focus Film Festival in 2012. Since then, I’ve been blessed to be part of a wave of excellent films directed by fourth-year film students.

The phenomenal Oh, the Places You’ll Go was released to widespread acclaim at the Screening Room last weekend, and two more feature films are set to be released later this year.

Still, more students need to get involved with the arts scene in Kingston. This would spur their own personal artistic growth and encourage the community to make valuable work by broadening their audience.

The creative arts — drama, film, music and fine art — are often overlooked as a lesser part of the Queen’s community.

After the Fine Arts program was temporarily suspended in 2012-13 due to budget concerns and the Union Gallery lost its mandatory student fee in 2012, the community had to re-examine why these programs and services exist in the first place.

Their reach goes beyond the students who participate in the arts directly. They impact everyday students who enjoy and appreciate their contribution to campus culture and beyond.

This kind of art resonates and retains its meaning years after completion — and the quality of Queen’s cultural environment and the University’s commitment to higher learning rests partially on the success and maintenance of these programs.

Even students who aren’t familiar with or don’t personally care for the creative arts can appreciate its value. For Queen’s to be an institution at its best, we should appreciate disciplines that exist to shape unique experiences.

Crises like the one our Fine Arts program fought through two years ago highlight the precarious position of the arts at Queen’s — even while the recent completion of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts and the neighbouring Tett Centre show an outward support.

These efforts need to be improved on in the arts community. When students take the time to view student-made films and artwork, it enriches and amplifies the art’s effect and keeps programs on their feet.

Better work is produced when more students and community members care about what they’ve created.

At this year’s South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas, film-maker Mark Duplass spoke about the idea of shooting films on weekends and with friends. With the constantly dropping cost of decent cameras and other technology, there’s no reason to not experiment with

telling your story.

In my personal experience, nothing beats this kind of creation; the flexibility to play with ideas and roles on set is invaluable to healthy artistic growth.

These concepts work along with Kingston’s thriving theatre scene, with dozens of unique groups crafting plays covering a wide range of topics and approaches.

These include Colliding Scopes’ annual production in immersive theatre, and plays by the Queen’s drama department. Their most recent — the mesmerizing If We Were Birds — finished its run in February.

Being an artist isn’t a prerequisite for making art anymore. Here at Queen’s, most plays and concerts are cheap, and film screenings free.

Film, in particular, is a rapidly growing art form both at Queen’s and in the broader Kingston community.

At last month’s Kingston Canadian Film Festival, several locally made feature films premiered alongside short works from the community.

Producing film and theatrical performances is as challenging as it is rewarding. Individuals with experiences in those areas are almost invariably positive, upbeat and confident, with strong abilities to solve problems and communicate effectively under stress. These are all immensely valuable skills in everyday life and the workforce.

Working collaboratively, an appreciation of aesthetic beauty and a strong network of connections are just a few more of the benefits connecting with the arts can bring.

Some films that are shown at the Isabel have widely varying audience bases, with one common denominator: the people attending the shows are largely the same people making them.

Queen’s art community is strong and thriving, and its members support each other with aplomb — but it needs the support of other students.

If you get out there and support the growth of film and the arts here in Kingston, you’ll find
your world a bigger, more beautiful place for it.

Ciarán Meyer is a fourth-year film and media studies major at Queen’s.

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