Arts @ Amherst Generates Student Interest in Campus Creativity

Arts @ Amherst Advocates is a student group that gathers student artists together to network and collaborate, while also spreading awareness about arts events happening on our campus. The club meets Wednesdays at 8 p.m. in Webster 2.
Arts Coordinator for the Arts at Amherst Initiative Lauren Horn ’17 is the head of the club. When we met, she had just come from settling two guest artists in at Marsh House.

The arts have always been a part of Horn’s life “in some way or another,” whether it be dancing, which she’s done since she was three years old, attending jazz concerts or just “lov[ing] making things.”

She described art as an outlet for both her own and others’ emotions. For Horn, the cyclical nature of art — the morphing of it from the viewpoint of a consumer to a producer to an advocate — is what makes art special.

It was not Horn, but a previous student, Ian Stahl ’14, who created the club back in 2013. His goal was to help strengthen the arts community and foster collaboration between different departments of art. When Horn was approached by Stahl to join the club, she thought of it as “a really good way to get people together and to rouse enthusiasm for the arts.” She was immediately in, joining the club as the dance liaison.

When pressed further about what she feels is lacking in the arts scene at Amherst, Horn spoke strongly about how it’s all about just “trying to get people to care more.”

Her biggest focus in addressing this issue is “figuring out what students are interested in.” She feels that garnering public interest is key when planning and scheduling events. This is where Arts @ Amherst Advocates comes in. Horn describes her process as “bounc[ing] ideas” off of a small group of people, discussing potential events and gauging public reaction.

The main goal for the club is to boost student interest in art events. For the future, its goals are to make arts events sound just as interesting as, for example, an AC After Dark event. Horn expressed that there really is “event competition” on the Amherst campus, where there are over 100 student organizations and not enough students that want to attend a variety of events.

Moreover, Arts @ Amherst Advocates allows student artists on the campus to have a “safe space … and form those connections and collaborate with people … who you never knew were making art on campus,” said Horn.
She stressed the point that her role in the club was not to “spearhead” or take total control, but to be there to support Amherst’s artists.
She said, “I want students to get to know and feel out what they want, to find out what it is that students are actually complaining about on campus, because I feel like everyone complains about something. And well, if you complain to me, maybe I can do something about it, you know?”

Although Arts @ Amherst Advocates is just returning from a two-year hiatus and is now more in the process of rebuilding and getting people interested in its mission, Horn had extremely clear goals about what the ideal arts scene at Amherst would look like from her perspective.

“I think what I really want is for people not to be afraid to go to arts events by themselves because I think … we get into this pack mentality. People will only go to events if their friends are going, or if there’s a lot of people going, or if it’s known as ‘cool’ and they can gain some sort of social capital from going to it,” she said.

Horn expressed discontent over how “people tend to dismiss events that don’t fit into this packaged idea of what they think art should be” and will choose to go to events which fit their already-established “aesthetic,” refusing to venture out of their comfort zones.

She spoke of the importance of trying new things, how “sometimes it helps to see things you don’t like, and it helps you to find choices in your making and consuming of art too …ideally everyone … just go[es] for it. And they make new connections, meet new people, and just come out of their rooms!”

Lauren hopes that students, especially the recluse artists on campus who are reluctant to show their art or talk about it, know that they could come to Arts @ Amherst to find an accepting community of fellow artists and be proud of their work.
Perhaps in order for individuals to be more adventurous as artists, there needs to be a more general change in our attitude as students, in our willingness to learn from the unknown.

“A lot of students on campus have a clear directive mentality,” Lauren described, when they go to events thinking “I’m here for this exactly, this specifically … I’ll get that and then I’ll leave.” Because students often can’t figure out what exactly they hope to get from the more out-of-the-ordinary arts events, they’ll choose not to go instead.

“Even with homework, we know what we’re going to get out of it,” Lauren went on “And I think, trying to get out of that mentality would be helpful. But that’s a larger change.”