Why we need to save the arts at St. Olaf

Before graduating from St. Olaf, every student must have at least one ALS-A (Artistic Studies) credit. For arts majors, such as music, dance, studio art or theater, it’s pretty easy to get this credit and rack up several ALS-A courses over four years.

As a music major, I realized it was one of the first General Education requirements I completed. However, non-arts majors may be thinking, “Why do I have to use an entire credit taking some art class?”

Well, first, there’s the liberal arts argument – arts majors have to take a lab science, chemistry majors have to take a literature course, economics majors have to take a history course and the list goes on.  It’s something you sign up for when you send in that St. Olaf deposit.

This is the traditional position that argues taking courses outside your major makes you more well-rounded and, theoretically, a better job applicant in the future. You know, all that jazz that you heard about in every St. Olaf brochure.

Next, think about the amount of art in our daily lives. Of course, at St. Olaf, this is escalated immensely. Just walk past Hall of Music or Christiansen Hall of Music and one can hear ensembles and individuals practicing at all hours of the day.

“As arts budgets are decreasing, it is becoming increasingly important to learn to appreciate the arts.” – Katie Anderson ’20

But post-graduation, I promise you – there will be arts in your life. Maybe a classical concert, or a date to an art museum or your friend’s theatrical performance. Taking arts classes helps you appreciate artists, performers and the work they put in to produce their final products.

With a liberal arts education under your belt, walking past a photography exhibit has the chance to become more than a half-hearted glance – you may be able to think back to that photography class you took your Sophomore of college and understand the thought, planning and effort that went into the exquisite photographs.

Learning how to appreciate the arts will always be useful. As arts budgets are decreasing, it is becoming increasingly important to learn to appreciate the arts.

Hopefully, if you took the “History of Jazz” or “Printmaking” or “Intro to Theater” courses in college, you may be more inclined to fight for the arts in the future. You may remember the skills learned from those courses, becoming more determined to ensure that arts are a part of every educational institution.

Now, this brings up a new question – why fight for the arts? Coming from an arguably biased perspective, fighting for the arts is crucial. Remember those elementary art classes? Or the choir they forced you to be in during middle school? Maybe a not-so-great band where you hit a snare drum a few times?

Even if you didn’t enjoy those experiences, there may have been a kid who lived for them. There was a kid who became a flute performance major after spending 45 minutes in band twice a week in 3rd grade. Or, maybe in the future, you’ll find your elementary classmate’s artwork in a renowned art museum.

I know, when you’re trying to be a St. Olaf student and squeeze in two majors, a concentration, and a thousand jobs and co-curriculars, the last thing you want to do is take a class completely unrelated to your major. 

But, all in all, think past that and remember that arts classes can and will be beneficial to you in the future.


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