of Campus Arts Miserably Lacking
am writing concerning the lamentable state of the arts coverage
in the Oberlin community, most notably in The Oberlin Review. As
one of the most prolific young artistic communities in the country,
Oberlin has an obligation to document and discuss and not
just advertise and promote its artistic output. To provide
such a forum, we must create a publication dedicated solely to the
This publication, which should be a web-based Arts journal, will
provide a meaningful record for those who dedicate themselves to
their craft. And because the writing of these reviews would demand
active student efforts to verbally describe the arts, this publication
will further that which this College embodies perhaps most proudly:
humanism through the enrichment and education of all perceptive
senses. The demand for such a publication manifests itself three-fold.
At times, the lack of sufficient coverage in our publications is
lamentable. Last Nov. 10, for example, Wendell Logan, one of the
most influential professors in Oberlins history, the founder
and chair of the formidable Jazz Studies department, a man who has,
by sheer strength of will, defined and advanced the excellence of
the Conservatory in the face of extraordinary adversity over the
past 30 years, was honored in a concert that united alumni from
around the globe. Over the course of three, the concert moved most
everyone in the audience and on stage to both tears
and exultation, and will stand as the most significant musical experience
of this writers Oberlin career. It wasnt covered by
any printed publication.
But there are many events that go without coverage at Oberlin. It
is unlikely that all of the nine senior art shows, 10 poetry readings,
four plays, three dance concerts and 200 Conservatory concerts and
countless other artistic events that will be presented over the
course of the next month, for example, will be covered by our existing
publications. We desperately need to discuss, describe, criticize,
and document these events.
Even when events are addressed in our publications, however, the
coverage is often quite poorly written, or inaccurate, or misinformed.
Emily Strouts article on this years Spring Back dance
concert, published last week, was a classic example of well-intentioned
inaccuracy: Endymions composers name is Blachly, not
Blatchly, and I scored the piece for an eight member chorus, not
20, and my quote was cut-and-spliced without my permission.
Granted, these are rather petty complaints, and to quibble about
such trivialities as my name belittles a more profound impediment
towards excellent arts publication coverage. The real problem, after
all, is not that Oberlin writers are incapable, but that those who
have impressively developed their craft and there are many
such writers in this community become quickly apathetic to
journalistic writing, and few remain to fight the good fight.
But even if all the writing that went into this publication were
not of the highest possible quality, the fact is that a breadth
of perspectives from the many contributing voices would easily override
any technical writing difficulties that are, after all, part and
parcel of the process. It is implicit in this journalistic system
that the emphasis is not so much on the finished product, but on
the process of writing the review itself. In this light, Ms. Strouts
article on the Spring Back concert, while imperfect, is still an
admirable effort, and her work demonstrates that there ARE writers
in our community willing to work and informed in their discipline.
Improving our journalism is not about a lack of talent, but a need
to adequately motivate capable writers extant to fill the void.
There are many ways to do so.
First, we should tap into strong pre-existing resources. In classes
in the dance department, the art department, and the music composition
department, students are required to attend and review productions
and art openings and concerts over the course of the semester. Such
assignments provide valuable practice for the training and fine-tuning
of perceptive skills as well as rhetorical and critical techniques.
Why not publish these reviews?
In recent months, there has been no small controversy about John
Byrnes fledgling and impressively created Muckraker. For all
of its shortcomings, this publication assertively demonstrates the
capacity of this college to produce and publish impressive writing.
But the admirable efforts of these young writers should, instead
of attempting to puppet the deplorable contemporary media sub-standards
by falsely portraying dedicated college administrators in a negative
light and vainly attempting to create hysteria, be directed constructively
towards extensive arts coverage.
And most importantly, we can fill the void of arts coverage by insisting
that the entire student body become involved. Along with other requirements
designed to ensure a rich liberal arts education, writing reviews
of concerts or exhibits or installations or recitals or lectures
or, if so desired, sporting events, should be a required step towards
commencement. Every undergraduate should be required to write, over
the course of each academic year, five one-page reviews of some
arts event that they attend.
Most members of this scholastic community actively attend performances
already, and one page of response would be little to ask. Students
would be compelled to submit something of some value, because the
articles would be published (and therefore read by peers and professors),
and to make these articles a requirement would remove the (understandable)
stigma inherently attached to criticism of the arts (especially
among active performing artists), creating, instead, a fertile forum
for artistic response. And there is little doubt that the community
particularly Kendal would get in on the action by
enthusiastically contributing constructive responses.
Such a publication would fit in rather easily in Oberlin, definitively
one of the warmest and well-informed artistic audiences in the world.
Once established, it will be hard to imagine a time when this publication
was not an integral part of the Oberlin experience. We will find
this forum of unimaginable value to the institution as a documentation,
description, and discussion of our fecund artistic creation, and
the writing process will, for the students, prove a difficult, demanding,
and enriching experience.