University’s Art Club Overcomes Challenges, Brings Artistic Minds Together

University’s Art Club Overcomes Challenges, Brings Artistic Minds Together

“Art is an important form of connecting with people who have a similar human experience”

The Covid-19 pandemic, the fast pace of uni life and a lack of a Fine Arts programme at Otago Uni are all challenges for Arts students here. Despite these barriers, the Otago University Art Club continues to make space for creative expression and facilitate connection through art. 

The club organises monthly ‘sketch crawls’ which involve students meeting up in a different area of Dunedin and spending a few hours sketching and connecting with new people. This month’s crawl was at Buster Green’s, because there is nothing like an overpriced iced oat latte to fuel the artistic juices.

The club was founded in 2019 by students who wanted to create a welcoming space for like-minded creative types to connect through their common interest in art. Gina, the club’s VP, acknowledges the challenges that Covid has brought to the function of the Club. “It was hard to keep people engaged online,” she said. The turnout to events like the sketch crawl is never guaranteed, but the Club has bounced back since the pandemic, and so far they have been a success. 

Some Arts students also feel they have faced neglect from the University. Gina recently took a year off to study art at the Polytech, which has a more robustly-funded Fine Arts programme. The University does not actually have a Fine Arts programme, but does teach performing arts like theatre, music, and voice, including Māori performing arts. Polytech offers Fine Arts. A lot of Arts students at Otago are “pretty pissed off”, said Gina, as they feel neglected by a University which she said tends to prioritise the sciences over art, which is “a bit of a shame”. She said “art is connected to enjoying life. In modern society, where everything is industrialised and commodified, art often gets pushed to the wayside.” Gina would like to see the University acknowledge this, and thinks it could do a lot more in supporting Arts students. 

Kenny, a participant in the crawl, studies medicine. “There is an unlikely connection between science and art,” as he finds his abilities useful in anatomy drawings. Art allows him to “study without a degree”. He said he often learns just as much from the canvas as he does in the lab. If the University put more resources into supporting students of the arts, Kenny reckons that students of these supposedly opposite fields could benefit from one another.

Art holds a world of different meanings to Dunedin students. Selena, the club’s media manager, describes it as “expressive, peaceful, and a way of sharing unique perspectives on the world”. She appreciates the importance of art in maintaining a balanced life as a student, allowing her to create mindful moments in which she can connect with the beauty of the world around her. Newly joined member Sakura says “art is an important form of connecting with people who have a similar human experience. Meaningful art can make you reflect on yourself.”

The club wants to encourage more students to tap into their artistic side. Gina says the club is not exclusive to expert artists, but it is open to anyone. “It’s OK to think that your art is shit. We are our own worst critics. Art is meant to be fun, it is not just about being good.” To hear about the all upcoming events, the club can be found on Instagram @otagostudentsart and on Facebook @Otago University Art Club. 

This article first appeared in Issue 10, 2022.
Posted 2:31am Sunday 8th May 2022 by Anna Robertshawe.