The Extracurricular Arts at Princeton
Although I have focused mostly on the creative and performing arts within the context of formal academic programs, that of course is only part of the story. Much learning at Princeton takes place outside of the classroom, and nowhere is that more true than in the arts. As the Allen Committee pointed out, most students at Princeton experience the creative and performing arts through student groups—as artists, administrators, technicians, and audience members. With its storied a cappella groups, the Triangle Club, Theatre Intime, dance troupes, and a wide variety of other student organizations, extracurricular activity in the creative and performing arts at Princeton is widespread, intense, lively, and constantly evolving.
Yet, the extraordinary level of activity and the high quality of performances conceal challenges that the University should address. Student groups in the creative and performing arts often find themselves struggling to scrape together the relatively modest sums of money that they require to mount a performance, purchase equipment, or arrange a trip. They often lack the technical and administrative support they need to progress from concept to performance without major, and sometimes insurmountable, obstacles. As we expand and improve our academic programs for the arts, we should also recognize and meet the needs of our other ambitious and talented student performers.
To do so, we should establish a fund to provide financial support for extracurricular activity in the arts and we should be attentive to the performance, rehearsal, and exhibition spaces needed by our student groups, as well as to the requirements of our academic programs. These considerations should influence our planning not only for the arts neighborhood but also for other university facilities. I am pleased, for example, that a gift from Peter B. Lewis ’55 made it possible to include a number of practice and rehearsal rooms in the basement of Bloomberg Hall, and that a gift from two alumni has enabled us to add an improved theater space to Whitman College.