Arts at Williams looks to diversify arts community

This spring, the Office of Communications launched the Arts at Williams initiative to encourage members of the College community to celebrate and engage with the diversity of arts programming coordinated by students, staff and faculty. 

This web-based initiative is comprised primarily of social media like Facebook and Tumblr and complemented by regular poster campaigns. “I was looking for ways to celebrate the variety of arts programming on campus,” said Suzanne Silitch, associate director of communications for the arts. The new initiative fosters the arts community on campus by compiling the range of studio art, music, theater, writing and dance into easy-to-locate webpages. Silitch’s goal is for students with a diverse array of interests and hobbies to learn about the arts from their peers and to positively impact each other’s artistic work. “We are trying to make our community aware of the rich variety of arts events we have on campus, in addition to the large shows at the museum and ’62 Center that are regularly promoted,” Silitch said.

Social media was selected as the most cost-effective option to spread word about the arts to students. Students have been involved in the initiative and will continue to have a voice in the developing project. Lauren Shuffleton ’12, Arts at Williams student assistant, brings her experience in the office and on campus to developing ways to attract the student body to the arts. “If you’re an art major, you’ll most likely attend events at the museum. And most students will support programming initiated by their peers. The question is: How do we encourage a broader section of the student body to attend a variety of arts events?” Silitch said. Shuffleton similarly noted that “having students go to both chamber choir concerts and Sankofa shows, for example, helps cross-pollinate the campus, encouraging a more diverse engagement with the arts.” The initiative provides support for the campus’ artists, from spoken word to visual arts performances to literary publications. “We did a story on The Sketchbook because it’s student-run and represents creative thought on campus,” Silitch said in offering an example of recent publicity efforts.

Silitch hopes that student groups will habitually inform the Office of Communications of upcoming events. In addition to informing current members of the College community, the Arts at Williams initiative will also display a thriving and diverse arts community to prospective students. “Prospective students are another audience, and the site celebrates the variety and vast number of arts-related events that span all the disciplines, from poetry to theater,” Silitch said.

Shuffleton also said that the site will aid students in navigating the social scene. “Arts at Williams is finding ways to streamline information about all facets of the arts community in order to create a more inclusive and diverse arts community that includes everything from shows at WCMA to jazz performances,” she said. In addition to informing the community about upcoming events, the initiative helps build community and encourage interdisciplinary exploration by those in and outside the arts. “Community is formed because people know what is going on, meet at the events and have good conversations,” Shuffleton said.

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