Students talk VMA department request


Photo: Evan Walsh

Only three students showed up to a town hall meeting April 8 that the visual and media arts department organized to discuss its request to have students in the major attend film screenings and gallery exhibits.

Administrators had asked VMA students to attend at least two Bright Light screenings or visit the Huret and Spector Gallery twice this semester, and scheduled this event to seek feedback from students.

“Overall, the requirement has not been successful,” said Anna Feder, the events and internship manager of the VMA department.

The discussion, held outside the Bright Family Screening room, also drew five faculty and staff members.

Though the department called it a requirement, there were no repercussions for students if they did not attend the screenings or exhibits.

Knight said he and Feder used the word “requirement” to see if it would have an effect on the attendance. Although it did not increase turnout overall, Knight said it did cause concern among students, so he and Feder are now looking to redefine the terms of the “requirement.” 

“The Bright Light Series and the Huret and Spector Gallery offer great opportunities for students to see some terrific stuff, but students just have not been taking advantage of them,” said Knight.

Alicia Carroll, the Student Government Association’s visual and media arts senator, said during the event the attendance reflected a matter of conflict for most VMA students.

“What I wish that they take away from this discussion is that it’s not the lack of interest, it’s a lack of time,” said the junior VMA major. “Emerson students are very busy; we are very, very involved— myself included — and I think flexibility is the biggest way to get people involved. I think Emerson students are interested; we just need to figure out how to time-manage these things into our schedules.”

Joseph Awgul, a senior VMA major, said in an interview that he thinks going to screenings or the gallery shouldn’t be required.

“If anything, they should have fewer events that’ll engage a wider audience,” Awgul said. “I’m busy on Tuesday and Thursday nights, so I’m not able to attend the screenings. If they maybe change up the day or change up the week, I think they’ll be able to reach out to more students.” 

Both Feder and Knight said they had hoped the guideline would foster a cinema- and gallery-going culture.

“We want our students to have experiences beyond the classroom experiences and beyond the behind the camera experiences, to watch and see things that maybe they never thought of or haven’t seen before,” said Knight.

Trying to figure the best way to engage students, Carroll suggested that the requirement be incorporated into the curriculum, specifically for first-year students.

Feder agreed with the idea for the upcoming fall. Knight said he didn’t want to propose repercussions, but rather incentives so that students get more involved.

“I hope to encourage students to create a community not just of movie makers but of moviegoers,” said Feder. “This is not a cinema-going generation. We as educators need to say that this is important. I’ve been a programmer for almost 20 years, and the more media is on demand, the less those that have grown up in this environment understand the importance of watching film in a communal environment.”