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OPINIONS

The Year of the Arts

It takes a lot for something to catch my attention when I’m biking, and it takes an especially striking scene to cause me to pull over and dismount. Both of those were accomplished last week, though, when I was biking on Escondido Road towards Meyer Library. A huge red steel structure – which most certainly hadn’t been there before winter break – arose out of the foggy mist, intriguing me with its weaving lines, all seemingly converging at a singular space.

It turned out that the aforementioned structure (The Sieve of Eratosthenes, a sign informed me) was a sculpture, a part of the University’s outdoor art collection. Yet despite its mysterious appearance, the sculpture had accomplished its goal – it had caused me to stop, ponder its meaning and admire its gleaming outline in the setting sun.

For me, that one ephemeral moment was poignant, a tribute to the power of the arts. How else could an assembly of steel beams, which was in all practical senses useless, trigger such a wave of emotion? This is the magic of the arts: no matter the art form – sculpture, music, dance, film, painting, theater, poetry and the countless other forms that I can’t possibly list here – we have always turned to the arts to inspire, to comfort, to heal, to entertain and to reflect.

Yet in our pressure-packed society (and the hecticness of the quarter system), it’s easy to get overwhelmed and forget about the arts. But look around you, and you’ll see that Stanford is in the middle of an arts transformation. The stunning new Bing Concert Hall opened last year, celebrating its first birthday earlier this month. The Anderson Collection at Cantor Arts Center will be opening later this year, with a new home for the Art and Art History department coming soon after. New arts-intensive programs for undergraduates (ITALIC, I’m looking at you) are thriving.

Every day, there are countless performances by world-class artists and Stanford students, and the two categories not mutually exclusive. All around campus, there is a resurgence in the arts, with The Economist even going so far as to call Stanford “a Florence for the 21st century” in an article earlier this month.

Despite this rebirth, paradoxically, the arts at Stanford remain latent at times, often overshadowed and overlooked by a populace that is seemingly perpetually overwhelmed and inundated with academics, athletics, work and extracurriculars. I, too, fall in that category – even as someone who’s actively involved in the music scene here, playing in the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, I have to perpetually remind myself to make time to explore and appreciate the diversity of artistic performances and showcases at Stanford from across the breadth of the arts.

While disparate, these fields of the arts are united by their exploration and evocation of emotions through various mediums, and I’ve been surprised at what I’ve discovered, even in artistic genres that I normally wouldn’t attend. I’ve found myself intellectually stimulated by contemporary art at Cantor, captivated by dance performances out in White Plaza and immersed in a full audiovisual production with 3-D images and electronic music at Bing. Of course, I’ve also attended (and performed in) countless performances in my “home” genre of classical music, always enjoying the amazing musical experiences that these performances provide.

Hopefully my experiences with the arts at Stanford are not unique. However, if you haven’t had a chance to indulge your artistic side yet, now is an opportune time to do so.

Go to an orchestra concert, where you might be moved by the lush melodies of Mahler, or stroll the galleries at Cantor and discover some unexpected art. Watch a friend perform in a musical or entertain yourself by watching a student-produced film. Explore and dive into various genres of the arts and see if anything catches your eye (and ear). Perhaps staring at gigantic red steel beams won’t elicit the same emotions for you as it did for me, but in the middle of this artistic renaissance at Stanford, let’s all really take a moment to stop and appreciate the arts. Let’s make 2014 the year of the arts at Stanford.

Jeremy Hsu

Ph.D. candidate in biology, President of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra

 

Contact Jeremy at jlhsu@stanford.edu.

  • Class of 2009

    Fantastic article!

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