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Educating ‘Renaissance Billikens’

If your only experience of art at Saint Louis University is a passing glimpse of a postmodern sculpture on campus, you may be missing out on an important part of your education. As a Jesuit institution, SLU’s professed mission is to educate “the whole person — mind, body, heart and spirit.” And art has always been an integral part of any liberal arts curriculum.

Admittedly, one of SLU’s greatest strengths is that it draws many talented science- and business-minded students. Successful surgeons, engineers and economists have all earned their education here, and some of the most prominent buildings on campus are dedicated to training Billikens’ left brains.

But the art scene at SLU deserves respect, too. Writers, visual artists, performers and musicians abound. Some have dedicated their education to studying their art, while others are hobbyists pursuing degrees in technical fields, but all of them have talent that can enrich the SLU community.

Too often athletics and academics occupy all the headlines concerning our university. That’s not to knock those fields; SLU has made many impressive achievements in both areas. But the arts deserve some attention, too, even though choirs and charcoal drawings are unlikely to sell out Chaifetz.

Often it’s this bottom line that leaves the arts playing second fiddle to programs that produce potential top-dollar donors. But the mission of our university is to do more than create efficient cogs for the capitalist machine. Students don’t just come to SLU to be professionally trained; they come to be educated, and that includes engaging with art and culture.

So get out there and enjoy the arts at SLU. Go see a play; SLU Theatre is performing “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” this weekend, and yes, that’s a theatrical show, not an orthographic competition. Read Kiln, the online undergraduate literary journal, by simply searching for its title on the SLU website. Listen to our a cappella groups, check out our studio art creations and keep an eye out for whatever concerts, exhibitions, performances or installations might pop up next. Better still, get involved with one of the arts-related groups on campus and become a content creator yourself; who knows, you just might find a pastime or even a new passion.

And don’t forget the larger art scene in St. Louis. SLU is home to several fine museums, most notably the Saint Louis University Museum of Art across Lindell from the library, the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art by Fusz Hall and the Samuel Cupples House smack dab in the middle of campus. But there’s even more museums throughout the city, like the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park, and there’s smaller shows and exhibits going on nearly every weekend in neighborhoods nearby campus.

Students at SLU are called to be servants, leaders and productive members of their societies. But maybe if we draw attention to the arts a bit more, we can have more scientists that sing, technicians that tango, financiers that paint frescoes and pilots that write poetry. And SLU will be a more colorful place for everyone.

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