When I walked into the upper gallery of TCU Place on Jan. 21, I was struck by something unusual. It was classy — a little too classy. But that is the life of the fine arts student: spend your daylight hours shuffling through the hallway in black sweatpants or paint-covered jeans, but be prepared at any moment to clean up and dazzle your audience with elegance and charisma.
We the Artists was one such occasion.
The event had been in the making for several months, as a collaboration between the departments of drama, music and visual art. Traction had been building this semester, with feverish word-of-mouth and mass Facebook invites abounding, coaxing people into answering that age-old question: what are the fine arts good for?
In a perfect world this is not a question that would be asked, but in the wake of last year’s town hall meetings, which seemed to many a death knell for the university’s art departments (not to mention the elusive and mostly forgotten Clarion Project), the question was out there. Once again, the students rose up to meet the challenge.
Walking into the gala, I was greeted by a sprawling assortment of visual arts pieces, twisting around the floor and spanning the walls. Some were traditional oil paintings and charcoal drawings, but there were also many unique three-dimensional sculptures, including a partially caved-in mirrored cube and a cow barn made of old Starbucks wrappers.
The drama department also had set and costume design projects on display that did not grab attention quite as much, but demonstrated remarkable creativity within their minimalistic form. There was no theme to follow in the gallery; it was a stunning mosaic of wildly different artistic voices that somehow cohered, presumably because they were united in a single purpose.
The evening started with a brief dramatic performance, invoking the Muse that inhabits the artists of the world. From there, the program flowed organically, alternating between dramatic and musical performances, visual arts film displays, and addresses to the audience.
Toryn Adams emceed the event. She was accompanied by speeches from the event’s organisers, the Drama Students Association’s president Adam Naismith, the Visual Art Students’ Union president Emma Anderson and the Association of Student Musicians’ president Mitchell Bonokoski, who gave a touching invocation to the teachers who have inspired so many students.
One of the main attractions was a “live action painting” by visual arts students Shaun DeRooy and Tyson Atkings. Following a drumroll, they attacked a large black canvas with paint and continued working throughout the evening, collaborating with little spoken discussion between them. Appropriately, it ended up as a rendering of artists. The painting was sold by silent auction.
The gallery was quiet at first, but soon swarmed with people. Over 240 attendees passed through the doors, whether students, professors, family or enthusiastic patrons looking to talk a starving student into selling. The atmosphere remained relaxed and fluid, which was sometimes unfortunate when a new performance would begin and two thirds of the room did not even realize it was happening. There was a stage on either side of the room, so the audience had to constantly be nudged one way or the other depending on the performance.
From Shakespearean comedy to a monologue by Satan, Opera to Jazz, oil paintings to animation to abstract art films, there was a little bit of everything on display. All the elements pulled together to form a picture that was enthusiastic and hopeful. It showed that there is an answer to what the fine arts are good for, but it cannot be expressed in words.
Photos: Brianna Whitmore/The Sheaf &