Midd arts scene extends into new space

By Edyth Moldow

Pia Contreras

Even NASA’s Voyagers sing in space. They have each been equipped with a golden record filled with art, music, mathematics and greetings in an array of languages — prepared to communicate with the universe about the culture of our earth — and have been launched into space on one of the most significant journeys of our time. For centuries, the world has praised art for the change it can set in motion, the values it can instill and the way it revolutionizes our sense of purpose. 

This year, I have had the pleasure of seeing students adapt to performing comedy, dance and music over Zoom. Whether this took the shape of Baggage Claim improvisation, Evolution Dance Crew breaking it down or my own friends performing their favorite funk songs at WOMP (Wednesday Open Mic Performance), Middlebury students have boldly reexamined how to be creative in uncharted territory.

As a journalist who attends numerous arts events at the college, I have been impressed by the ferocious determination of students, staff and faculty members to fight on behalf of the arts in this past year of limitation. Examples of this dedication could be seen in moments as small as the clear masks worn by performers so that audiences could see their lips move as they acted and sang, and they manifested in phenomena as big as the widely beloved Nocturne arts festival. Though many artists traverse our campus solar system, my actor, poet and musician friends shared what art has meant for them this past year. 

“I’ve noticed a new sense of community around the art spaces I’m a part of this semester,” Poet Nimaya Lemal ’21 said. “People come to rehearsal excited to be with each other. Poets listen to each other with particular focus and thoughtfulness.” 

Paradiddles a cappella member Abby Wilner ’23 also found community in art. “The arts are a wonderful form of connection here. At a small school, it’s so nice to find people with the same passion as you,” she said. Musician Mickey Feeney ’23.5 similarly noted the prevalence of these smaller artist circles and said, “In my experience, the arts at Middlebury are enlivened by a small yet extremely passionate group of students.” 

Actor Annabelle Iredale ’23.5 said, “Everyone involved in the arts at Midd has been incredibly creative and flexible this past year. It has been such a joy to experience and explore the endless innovation constantly on display on this campus,” while Lighting design student and actor Will Napper ’23 said, “I’m really happy that theatre has been able to stay strong during the pandemic. Even with all the restrictions in place and precautions taken, it’s been great just being able to present some live theatre at Midd.”

However, it’s easy to see art through the lens of a small liberal arts college rather than expand our own views to see that we are surrounded by galaxies that resemble our own. 

“Projects are geared very specifically toward a Middlebury audience, and I think this puts real limitations on creativity. I would like to see more people taking on artistic projects which are not exclusively for MiddKids, but for themselves and the broader world,” Feeney said. “Art is not about impressing other people or inflating your ego, but about creating something that exists in the world like a beacon of light, coming from the depths of one’s interiority and healing the world with its honesty, authenticity and vulnerability.” 

The time, thought and care it has taken to nourish the arts at Middlebury this past year should motivate the college to cherish its community of artists in the future. Artists will always be important to building the expressive culture the college should want to put forth. If art has not only existed but thrived in times of uncertainty and turbulence, art will surely continue constantly searching for ways to reach new places — even places beyond our galaxy.

Imagine a world stripped away, diluted to visual and auditory silence: no music, no dance, no cooking, theatre, sculpture, design or poetry. Without those golden records, the missions of Voyager 1 and 2 and their role in our universe would have been fundamentally different. The world — and, on a much smaller scale, Middlebury — glows with the promise of future creativity, aestheticism and expression to create connections of astronomical importance.