Posts Tagged ‘roble gym’

The Failure to Prioritize the Arts at Stanford

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Stanford is not a school generally known for its arts programs, and if you ask anyone who has any knowledge of Stanford, they’ll tell you flat-out that there is not much of an arts scene on campus. Arts are certainly not at the forefront of campus culture and not valued as highly as other pursuits.

Stanford Drama put on a highly acclaimed production of Rent in Roble Studio Theater. Since then, that space has been completely shut down by the County, leaving many performing arts departments and groups in even more need of adequate space. Photo from Stanford Drama.

In recent years, the University has made an ostensible push to try to improve the state of the arts on campus. There’s the Arts Initiative, replete with a snazzy brochure. There’s the Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts (SICA), which has, among other endeavors, hosted a number of meetings of student arts leaders to try and brainstorm ways to increase the presence and ubiquity of arts at Stanford. All of these efforts are important and crucial to making headway in the fight to make the arts better. But despite the work of these groups and the University’s claims to the contrary, the University continues to make large-scale decisions that make it very clear that the arts do not have first priority at Stanford.

For those who live in the West Campus boonies and like to work out, the recent news of the Board of Trustee’s approval of a new gym on Roble Field is good news. For those of us who know the story of the old Roble Gym, however, however, the decision is less unilaterally positive.

Roble Gym, which has its own Wikipedia page, is a gorgeous early 20th century building. The Athletic department occupied Roble Gym until the new gym, the Arrillaga Center for Sports and Recreation (ACSR), was built in 2004. The Athletic department moved to ACSR and gave most of their building over to the Drama and Dance departments. There was a huge problem, however: as an old building, Roble Gym has many problems, most notably a failure to comply to more modern fire and other standards. Neither the Athletic department nor the University wanted to, or still wants to, pay the heavy costs to retrofit and upgrade the building–it’s pretty expensive, and in very poor shape. (Take a look at the locker rooms, for example). In the years since the Drama and Dance departments took over the building, Roble Gym has essentially been condemned and parts of the building, including the main theater space, have been completely shut down by the County. For departments already significantly struggling with facilities–one higher level administrator noted, “Many junior high schools have better [drama] facilities than Stanford”–this has made it nearly impossible for any theater on campus, including any student groups that perform, to find space. And the problem extends to all of the arts: musician and Daily columnist Lucas Johnson can tell you about the state of the music facilities on campus.

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