Arizzi: University must build student arts center

Erin O'Neal

Tuition and room and board at Villanova add up to close to $40,000 per year, so why is there no money for music and the arts? I’m pretty sure the sports teams on campus don’t need that many complimentary sweatshirts. I don’t know about you, but I am getting a little sick of the arts getting neglected just because sports teams make money for the school. Isn’t college about education? Why does it feel like just another business?

There are tons of frustrated artistic students here at Villanova; if you know where to look you can see them every day. They are the students lugging clarinets, jazz shoes, costumes and black binders full of music underneath the tunnel en route to St. Mary’s. Every evening they gather in the auditorium, chapel and lobby to rehearse with their choirs, drama clubs, dance companies, orchestras and bands.

They are victims of the sorry state of the Villanova fine arts programs and of the fact that our institution has never found the need to put any legitimate amount of money into a performance space for those students interested in theater, music and dance.

Just about every arts group is stuck practicing in the decrepit facilities at St. Mary’s – Vasey Hall is reserved for graduate productions. The Villanova Student Musical Theater is forced to perform musicals in St. Mary’s auditorium, a room that is half the size of my high school’s auditorium and features a stage about as old as Villanova itself.

Any illusions one might have of watching semi-professional theater are crushed once arriving at the auditorium.

There is simply no space in which to create great theater. The Drama Club is currently in production for “Dracula,” which will be performed in St. Mary’s Chapel. While the chapel does provide an interesting aura for the creepiness of the play, it has no wings and no lighting facilities.

College theater should be a place where students can grow as performers and crew members, not shrink under the inadequacy of the facilities. But on a given night, the Voices and Singers, Villanova’s female and male choirs, will be rehearsing from 6-8 p.m. in the auditorium and chapel of St. Mary’s, causing “Guys and Dolls” and “Dracula” to put off rehearsal until after 8 p.m.

It’s ridiculous that four groups – not including the band, orchestra and dance groups that also use St. Mary’s – are all forced to compete for the same space.

Villanova arts programs are not dying; they are alive and well. The students who run these programs are passionate about them. Whether or not the University steps in, these student-run programs will survive and continue to exist.

But just imagine how much better VSMT’s performances would be if they had a real sound system, a deep stage and a catwalk. Imagine if the dance company could practice in a real studio, with a bar for ballet and a mirrored wall. Think of all the many students who would be drawn to a Villanova that treated its artists with respect, instead of shoving them in a run-down building located in the “Guam” of Villanova.