By Edward Ngai
As the arts scene at Stanford receives increasing resources and attention, the University has started planning the construction of a new “arts gym”—a drop-in studio and performing arts space at Roble Gym.
An enormous amount of interest is driving the University to keep up with student demand for arts spaces, according to Matthew Tiews M.A. ‘99 Ph.D. ‘04, executive director of arts program.
“There was a real desire for a drop-in creative space where students could come, just swipe their ID, get in and have a space to make work, rehearse and perform in,” Tiews said.
The initiative is the latest in a long and expensive effort to increase the role and visibility of the arts on campus. The $85 million dollar McMurtry Building, the new home of Stanford’s Department of Art and Art History, will open in a year, down the street from the acclaimed Bing Concert Hall. An additional $30.5 million is being spent to house the Anderson Collection, a major collection of modern and contemporary art. These development projects at the end of Palm Drive are intended to serve as the foundation for Stanford’s new arts district—a hub for creative expression that will greet visitors when they come to campus.
With the University investing in the arts, Tiews said resources have been allocated to increase student access to creative spaces, including the tentatively named “arts gym” project. The project is now in its design phase with completion aimed for fall of 2015.
The creation of practice spaces available by reservation for all students—not just those taking a related class or part of a University-affiliated student group—would satisfy a longtime need for students on campus.
Designated facilities, like the Braun Music Center, prioritize departmentally affiliated students and sometimes leave independent artists without places to rehearse. To keep up with the demand, the University has been working with students to better equip or convert community spaces into ones that could support art making.
Last December Viraj Bindra ‘15, a former ASSU senator, helped create a practice room for independent musicians in the Stern Dining complex. To do so, he worked with a range of University officials, including the Stanford Arts Institute, Residential and Dining Enterprises and art and art history faculty.
“The need for an independent student music space stemmed directly out of my conversations with students frustrated by the lack of available practice space on campus,” Bindra said. “I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback about the music room in Stern Hall, and hopefully we’ll see another major practice room on campus in the near future.”
Actively supporting independent artists has become a top priority, according to Paula Salazar ‘13, the arts in student life coordinator at the Stanford Arts Institute. She argues that just because a student isn’t taking a related class doesn’t mean the arts are any less valuable.
“We definitely understand that there is a lack of arts spaces on campus, and it’s one of our biggest priorities,” Salazar said, citing discussions about “flex spaces” for student work and performance at the new McMurtry building.
“Our priority is to help students who might not [be affiliated with an arts department]…at Stanford—art will still be a part of their lives and will continue to enrich their experience,” she added.
The proposed drop-in rehearsal, performance and studio concept at Roble Gym is one such attempt. When Toamatapu Lohe ‘16 approached the Stanford Arts Institute with a proposal to designate a centralized space for any artist to find any tool in any field, he found that the University was already planning to outfit existing facilities with new gadgets.
“They are expanding their creative spaces,” Lohe said. “One example would be getting a green screen for filmmakers or creating Lanthrop Library, where there will be rooms for video production, like a video editing bay.”
Personally, Lohe contributes to the arts scene by working with Academic Computing Services to put on arts-related programming on the second floor of Meyer Library.
His vision for the arts on campus is an environment where creatively inclined students of many different fields can meet and germinate new ideas. He is now working with more than a dozen sophomores and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design to create a space for members of different artistic disciplines to interact.
According to Salazar, the whirlwind growth of arts funding and a strong desire to harness student ideas have opened up a rare opportunity for current students to impact Stanford’s creative community long after they leave.
“Students are really having a say on what the arts looks like on campus,” she said. “They really have a hand in future generations of art experience at Stanford.”
Contact Edward Ngai at edngai ‘at’ stanford.edu.