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A Fresh stART

March 28, 2019

In 2012 Meany Center invited UW students with an interest in the arts to join the newly form Student Engagement Team (SET), with the goal of engaging their peers around Meany Center programming. Seven years later, SET is off to a new stART!

UW Senior Charlotte Schoen is one of several students heading up Meany Center's campus engagement efforts this season. We asked her to tell us all about it:

Before I started working at Meany Center for the Performing Arts, I already had a lot of reasons to appreciate the organization. Since the Department of Dance resides within Meany Hall, as a dance major I’d had had a lot of exposure to visiting artists by proximity alone. Audio from the theater plays in the basement where many dance majors congregate to study, and some afternoons I am lucky enough to find myself serenaded by a string quartet rehearsing for an evening performance. Other times, I've been star-struck as I crossed paths with a Martha Graham Dance Company member on their way to the dressing rooms. Meany Center always brings master classes to the Department of Dance with visiting dance groups ranging from Trisha Brown Dance Company to La Compagnie Hervé Koubi.

After taking these classes, I am always eager to see these companies perform. I learned early on about the $10 tickets available for UW students. Because it is so accessible, it always shocks me when I meet another UW student who has never attended a Meany Center performance. Sometimes I meet students who are entirely unaware that Meany exists.  I’ve  been enjoying Meany performances for three years, so when I saw that Meany was hiring an intern last spring with a focus in campus engagement, I jumped at the opportunity to apply.

I was excited to get involved in an arts organization that I already felt connected to. One of the goals of the internship was to help revitalize our Student Engagement Team (SET). SET is a student organization that was founded to promote student involvement in Meany Center events. It had become a lot less active in recent years as most of the original members had graduated. I was a little nervous about trying to completely revamp SET, and didn’t know where to begin. I started off by trying to drum-up interest around campus for some of our first shows of the 2018-2019 season by reaching out to specific student organizations and departments.

As I started this outreach, I was excited to discover all of the student-run performances and art-related events on campus of which I was previously unaware.  While promoting Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, I learned of Laasya, an annual Classical Indian Dance competition that UW’s Natya dance team has been given the opportunity to host this year on campus. While spreading the word about chamber group Brooklyn Rider, I browsed the School of Music calendar and found that there are student recitals every single week. Art is alive all around campus, on scales big and small.

We started to rethink the role of SET, and came to the realization that while promoting Meany Center performances is important, there are so many art events that are student-run, produced, and performed that also deserve attention. With this in mind, we have been working towards envisioning a new mission for SET; one that goes beyond Meany Center to supporting the campus arts community at large. We are rebranding SET to StART: Students for the Arts.

StART will continue the ongoing engagement with students and Meany visiting artists. When French-Algerian Compagnie Kafig came in November to perform their dazzling mix of circus acrobatics, martial arts, and street-dance we hosted a post-show Q&A for students. About thirty excited students came to the event, even though it was 9 pm on a school night, because they wanted to meet the incredible performers. They had a lot of questions, ranging from “how long did it take you to be able to spin on your head like that?” to “can we take a selfie?” It was thrilling to see so many students who not only came out for the show but were enthusiastic about getting to know the artists.

Along with continuing engagement with Meany visiting artists like Kafig, we hope for StART to become an organization that engages students with the vibrant arts community across campus in the schools of Art, Drama, and Music, the Department of Dance, and all the student-run organizations. We want to become more active promoters of UW student artists.

If we help to promote student artists today, maybe someday we’ll be lucky enough to see their names on our season brochure.