Creativity At Queen’s Is The Flower in the Concrete

Creativity At Queen’s Is The Flower in the Concrete

When I first came to Queen’s, the possibility buzzed in me and all my fellow froshies. You could almost feel it on your skin, the electricity. This was when I was still a Chemistry student, with hopes of radiology of some other vague, moneyed profession.

When you study in science, engineering or business at our school, you feel more assured in yourself due in no small part to the fact that our school puts so much effort into showing the importance of your studies. The buildings used by these faculties are beautiful, cutting edge on the inside with robots and glass walls everywhere. I didn’t realize how much support I got as a science student until I wasn’t one anymore.

A TA in first year succinctly told us that chemistry grad students offer the school a chance to make money from their research. A philosophy TA, I also had in first year, told our class to not go on in that field, it was a bad life and your prospects were slim.

I think that the philosopher’s warnings apply to all aspects of student experience beyond the realms of science, business, and engineering. Creativity is perhaps the biggest victim.

As a creative on campus – that’s an intentionally nebulous and vague term – I cannot help but feel sort of out of place here. These two TAs so inadvertently summed up the issue – Queen’s doesn’t care about creativity.

And perhaps we are deserving of such unintentional admonition?

Do we provide Queen’s with the potential for future alumni donations? Obviously not.

Do Arts students need space for labs? Obviously not. Do we pay as much tuition or have the same potential earnings as these other degrees? No.

But, any Arts or artist-student walking through campus is not likely to feel as welcome, as invited to the table. And I think a large part of this is to do with money, and the fact that it is not likely you will make much if you get a degree dealing with books instead of robots.

Now, I understand the reactions to this will tend towards “look at the differences in your tuition doofus”, “you even paid more tuition in Chemistry and Engineers pay even more”, etc, etc.

And sure, this is true. But something I hold true as well is that the arts, the product of creativity, are important in ways that Queen’s seems unwilling to acknowledge.

For example, most schools in Canada have a literary magazine. St. Francis of Xavier University and the University of New Brunswick have the Antigonish Review and The Fiddlehead, respectively – and UBC has Prism International. These magazines, from smaller schools, are internationally renowned.

We have The Undergraduate Review, but only undergraduate students can submit there. It’s not well-funded and it’s also under the purview of ASUS, which means it’s not really autonomous or independent to the same extent. Full disclosure: I sit on its editorial board and am one of its events coordinators.

There’s Queen’s Quarterly which is a legitimate, honest-to-goodness lit mag. It’s got a really nice print edition but its website shows that it has not progressed into the digital age. It’s not really useful for anything beyond showing people that there is in fact an honest-to-goodness lit mag on campus.

What a surprise eh, it’s like flowers in pavement, the arts on campus – it springs up in surprising places inevitably.

The Isabel and the Agnes are amazing institutions and by the grace of those inestimable gods Isabel and Alfred Bader we have the former and the latter comes from a gift from a former Dean of Medicine and his wife Agnes.

This woman is probably as responsible as anyone for the presence of arts on campus, and the Queen’s Encyclopedia credits her as the leading influence for the establishment of the Fine Art program in the 30s.

But we can’t really on great individuals like Etherington or Agnes curators like Sunny Kerr all the time. There ought to be institutional support. Especially when they can spend one-hundred thousand on a search for our next Principal.

You do not fill Spotify, Netflix, Instagram, YouTube, a library, an art gallery, Muse Magazine, the Journal, the UR, Ontario Hall, the Isabel, the theatres of Theological Hall, the Dan School of Drama and Music without people who are creative. That is a fact so proven and so true I don’t have to say it.

Everyone consumes art. Everyone loves art even if they don’t know how to express that feeling. If you don’t read, you listen to music, you look at paintings. Netflix and chill would be nothing without the screenwriters, actors and all the people involved who realize the importance of what they’re doing – just saying.

As the dearly departed Stan Lee said “I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain, you’re doing a good thing.”

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