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2013 Fall Issue 2 (October 4, 2013)

The Cost of Creativity: Is the Weitz Worth its Salt?

October 4, 2013
By Perrin Stein

Walk up to the front of the Weitz Center for Creativity (WCC) and you will find a double-sided bulletin board filled with colorful posters, advertising events from Pro-Choice 101 to the Midbrains Neuroscience Consortium.

Each week, a wide smattering of events, many of which are advertised on this bulletin board, are held in the WCC; the various clubs, classes, forums, and workshops are a testament to the new building’s versatility.   

Mathematics major Nimita Iyer ’15 finds the building a multipurpose haven where many disciplines can co-exist. Iyer has taken biology and computer science courses in the building and has organized events for the Haiti Justice Alliance, which is housed in the WCC.

“The space is extremely useful and versatile in a number of ways,” she said.

In addition to being an interdisciplinary space, the WCC helps to expand Carleton’s growing arts programs, according to Director of the Arts Steve Richardson.

“Without the Weitz, we would be missing a big symbol that the college values this kind of work and the campus-wide conversation about acts of creation would be less prominent,” he said.

Theater major Hannah Neville ’14 explained how she has witnessed first-hand the ways in which the WCC fosters the expansion of the arts at Carleton.

“Before the Weitz opened, the theater department was rather loose and unfocused. It was like everything lacked a center,” she said. “Now that we have moved to the Weitz, there is a permanent structure in which to teach classes specifically for the performing arts.”    

She also stressed the importance of the WCC for the community as a whole. “It’s drawing more people to Carleton and expanding our little bubble,” she said.

Similarly, Laurel Bradley, director of the Pearlman Teaching Museum, added, “The Weitz shows how the arts can be a catalyst for addressing problems instead of being an add-on or just an extracurricular.”

According to English professor Susan Jarrett McKinstry who served as a resident in the WCC for two years, the Weitz’s ability to bring people and disciplines together has made it a valuable addition to Carleton.

“The world is changing so fast, and interdisciplinary thinking is necessary for that kind of environment,” she said.

“Collaboration helps us ask new questions and creates a fascinating partnership through which we can work on programs we couldn’t even imagine alone.”

In one example, Richardson described an instance in which theater and dance chair Judith Howard worked with CAMS classes to create dance-themed videos.  According to Howard, having theater and dance in the same building as otherarts disciplines makes, “the exchange of ideas more immediate and fruitful.”

As Neville put it, “The Weitz is the perfect example of what Carleton tries to do. You can’t have a liberal arts college that only celebrates one way of thinking.”

Nevertheless, with a price tag of $43 million, there’s debate over whether or not the complex was worth it.  According to Gayle McJunkin, Assistant Vice President for External Relations, the building cost $35.9 million for construction and $7.3 million for a maintenance endowment. 

“Carleton says that it doesn’t have enough money to be need-blind in admissions,” said one anonymous student who spoke candidly about the space. “If it hadn’t dumped $50 million into building an egghead palace that students don’t use just so they could win awards in design magazines, it’d be able to not discriminate against kids based on their parents’ incomes. It’s an ethical no-brainer.”

Physics major Zachary Lynn ’14 is one such non-user. “The Weitz has not affected me at all,” the physics Student Departmental Advisor said. “I have not taken any classes there, wanted to take any classes there, used the IdeaLab or PEPS for academic work, done homework there or eaten at the café at all.”

Accordingly, Lynn said his building priorities would have been different.

“I don’t use the services very much,” he said, “Personally, I would have preferred a new science building.”

Neville promised she would have “choice words” for people like Lynn who do not see the merits of an arts building
“There would be an uproar if the biology department didn’t have laboratories,” she said.

McKinstry, on the other hand, views the Weitz as a work in progress.

“I like to see students adopting the space, but I expected it to be louder,” she said. “I had hoped there would be more performances and more people..”

However, she added that it takes time for the faculty and students to adapt to new spaces.

“As a college, we have grown into the space and are continuing to grow,” she said.

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