When the Office of Residential Life (ResLife) sent a message out to students last fall encouraging them to submit proposals for the creation of a new program house, Gabe Gordon ’15 and Genna DeGroot ’15 stepped up. What did they want in the place of Interfaith House? They longed for a re-imagining of the infamous Art House.
When they sent the application in for the proposed program house, they labeled it “Studio House.” They feared that calling it Art House would increase its chances of rejection because the former Art House, once located at 69 High Street, was dismantled in 2003.
In 2000, The New York Times published an article titled “Naked Dorm? That Wasn’t in the Brochure,” which labeled labeled West College (WestCo) a “naked dorm.” In the article, former Art House manager Michael Bodel ’03 spoke highly of naked parties, a social event for which the house was known. Some students speculate that the house’s affinity for nudity was one of the primary reasons behind its demise.
“I don’t know the official reason why, but I know ResLife decided Art House was done,” Gordon, the Art House manager, said. “They lived in this beautiful house, throwing too many parties and causing too much trouble.”
After the application for Studio House was accepted, ResLife agreed that it would be a better idea to call it Art House.
Art House’s current mission statement on the University’s website is almost identical to the old iteration’s. Both describe the nurturing of a space where all art can be created, displayed, and discussed. Both emphasize the importance of being open-minded and inclusive of art created by anyone on campus.
“What I want Art House to be more than anything is a place where people won’t be judged for having ideas,” Gordon wrote in an email to the Argus. “I know I often struggle with finding the confidence to take hold of the creative thoughts I come across, act on them, and put them to life….The Art House community, by being supportive of the work of each other, fosters the initiative to act on creative impulse.”
So far, the new iteration of Art House has been a widespread success in attracting students with varied interests. Gordon described the current residents as a diverse collective of students.
“We are NOT a house full of Art majors,” he wrote. “We are filmmakers, musicians, dancers, writers, actors, marine biologists, etc.”
Art House has already had numerous social events that have established its place within the broader campus community. At its first concert, the Housewarming Show on Sept. 14, student performances included an improv-folk group, a funk-rap band, and a Beatles cover band.
Since then, Art House has hosted several other artists. On Oct. 5, they welcomed Lust-Cats of the Gutters, an indie band from Brooklyn, Mannequin Pussy, a Denver-based fuzz-punk band, and a student duo called The Murdertones.
Though concerts are clearly a large part of the house’s focus, its residents strive to present a wider variety of the arts, and even to combine them. Gordon hopes that people will come for the concerts and be drawn in to the Art House community by the visual art on display. The first floor is still decorated with art from the Housewarming Show in September, which drew from campus-wide submissions. In addition to student art, residents of Art House hang cat images up on the walls whenever a resident has achieved anything, whether it be a social or academic accomplishment.
Art House’s mission to wrap students into a creative haven extends beyond nightlife. Residents use the house as a rehearsal space, and Gordon hopes to hold a short play series there in the future.
This past weekend, Art House hosted a 24-hour comic book marathon during which paper and drawing supplies were provided for anyone who wanted to create comics. Finally, contributors created one big comic that its contributors hope to show to the rest of the student body. The house also hosted an event where students were invited to draw nude models.
Beyond mixing with other students and planning events with other houses, members of Art House have demonstrated a desire to mix with the world beyond the University. Gordon has plans for the house to participate in outreach programs and host guest speakers.
“Community engagement through art is one of the biggest elements of our mission, so we are definitely going to be reaching out around campus and Middletown to get projects going in that direction,” Gordon wrote. “Our amazing faculty advisor is Kate TenEyck, the Art Department’s Studio Technician and professor. She is heavily involved in Wesleyan and Middletown’s art scenes and is an amazing resource.”
It’s clear that the revived Art House has its hopes to be a friendly and welcoming environment for people of all persuasions, removed from the older iteration’s rowdy reputation.
“While Art House likes to make noise (through our concerts and performances, gatherings, laughter), we consider ourself a safe and comfortable space,” Gordon wrote. “The building is large and shared with Lighthouse, but it feels like a home to both groups.”