A & E, Campus

Performing Arts Waits in the Wings as STEM Takes the Spotlight

Dr. Don Appert conducting the band in preparation for their upcoming performance. (Kaitlyn Bonn / The Independent)

The Clark College orchestra will kick off its Fall season with a Nov. 30 concert, featuring works by Berlioz, Barber and Rimsky-Korsakov, directed by Dr. Don Appert. But while orchestra students have spent Fall quarter rehearsing, the performance won’t be at Clark.

Instead, the orchestra is renting out the Royal Durst Theatre at the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, just like it does for most of its performances, which underscores a long-standing challenge for Clark students engaged in the arts.

Clark performers only have two available venues on campus, but according to Appert, neither the O’Connell Sports Center or Gaiser Hall Student Center have the acoustics, space or atmosphere to accommodate these often award-winning performers.

After Clark opened a $39 million STEM building earlier this Fall, performing arts faculty and community members noted that the lack of a facility for Clark musicians largely reflects a culture that doesn’t value arts as much as science, technology, engineering and math.

Clark’s Band Director Richard Inouye said that while the United States competes with other nations in the science and engineering fields, it doesn’t in the arts. He said the teaching of fine arts seems to be disappearing in schools,  “The arts are a low priority in both society and culture.”

Band practice with Dr. Don Appert. ( Kaitlyn Bonn / The Independent)

However, things weren’t always like this. According to Appert, there was a proposal for a performing arts center at Clark in 2003. The college, along with members of the community, worked with the state to plan a dedicated performance space for Clark students. The previous proposal suggested that the center would create partnerships with community art organizations, creating a viable source of revenue.

The plan was based off of case studies from two-year colleges with arts centers and enrollment surveys from local high schools. Appert said the plans fell through due to revenue allocation disagreements between the college and state.

But despite the near success of the previous proposal, Clark isn’t likely to build a performing arts center anytime soon.

Miles Jackson, dean of Social Sciences and Fine Arts, said that building a performing arts facility on campus is not in Clark’s strategic plan, and wouldn’t happen without the proper funding.

Typically, large-scale projects, like the college’s new STEM building, are funded primarily through state-provided money. But according to Jackson, a performing arts center would not meet the necessary requirements to receive state funding.

Band practice with Dr. Don Appert. ( Kaitlyn Bonn / The Independent)

“The state prioritizes different capital projects by how much classroom space the project would provide,” Jackson said. He explained that the state does not view a black box theaters and rehearsal rooms as classroom space.

Jackson also said that although a center is not called out in the college’s strategic plan, the college would make it a priority to build a center, if a donor funded the construction.

While students and faculty agree that current facilities are limited, not everyone thinks that a new performing arts center is the only solution. Matt Brown, a Clark alumni currently playing Spike in Clark’s Fall play, said that the college’s facilities might just need an update. “Maybe an old thing, if it’s highly renovated, can do everything a new thing can.”

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