Performance Matters

Photo by Stephen Moorer via Wikimedia Commons
Much self-satisfaction can be found in taking up a performing art.  |  Photo by Stephen Moorer via Wikimedia Commons.

Over the years, there has been an increasing disconnect between students and the visual and performing arts – in numbers and in interest. As seen in a 2009 Los Angeles Times survey, “Since 1982, the number of 18-to-24-year-olds who said they had any music education in their lives has declined by more than a third. For visual arts education, the number has decreased by a half.”

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) reports that “a 2008 survey of school district officials found that, since 2002, 16 percent of the nation’s school districts that had decreased instructional time in subjects other than English-language arts and mathematics had reduced instructional time in art and music by an average of nearly an hour a week.” As education continues to focus on standardized tests and numbers, the arts become secondary and less emphasized in a student’s education.

Though the arts may not quantitatively measure a student’s intelligence, the arts contribute to building a student’s character. Interestingly, when “personal value in the experience” is found, there becomes an “active participation in the arts” as described in the NEA report. However, when the arts are not readily accessible in education, students cannot find a connection with the arts, especially, when living in the fast-paced life characterized by technology and social media.

And while education is necessary in bringing awareness to the arts, on a broader perspective, students can easily be disengaged with the arts when there is a wrong connotation of the performing and visual arts.

In the recently published article “Ignore the Young at Your Peril,” Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott note how art houses (places where independent films are shown) are seen to always have an older demographic. Ironically, most of the older adults who attend the shows at the Film Society of Lincoln Center are donors. Attending a show or performance should not just be for the dilettante. The visual and performing arts needs the audience of young adults; college students are at the time of their lives where they are discovering and finding their passions in what they want to do – their passion equals that of the performers on stage.

Though there may not be any known art houses in the Boston area, Boston has an amazing visual and performance arts scene without the glitz and the glamour of New York. BU Students should take advantage of Boston’s varied art scene, especially, when its school is bringing awareness upon it.

The BU’s Arts Initiative, originated in 2012, increases the access of the arts at BU and the Boston area to its students. However, it is not just about recognizing the arts but also about having students gain something meaningful from it. The visual and performing arts are truly a hothouse for inspiration and creativity. The arts can also go beyond their subject and influence all academic disciplines. Naturally, the creative capabilities of students would be expanded as well as their social and intellectual dialogue – skills that carry throughout one’s lifetime. Students can engage themselves in the arts without having to be formally taught. And without the formality, all students can find a personal connection with the arts.

But before dressing up and heading out, take advantage of being a student when attending a show. Be on the lookout for rush tickets (tickets that are purchased on the same day of performance) or student tickets. For example, $20 will get you a ticket to see The Nutcracker, Cinderella, and Bayardére at the Boston Opera House. If you do not feel like spending $20 at the ballet, why not catch a free performance at Boston Symphony Orchestra with the BSO College Card (BU students can pick them up for free at the GSU Information Desk)? The best source of finding these discounted shows is simply to do some research on the internet. The Boston Calendar is also a great go-to-guide for events and shows around the Boston area. And if you want good seats, going early can’t hurt. If you get stuck with less than the best, however, there is nothing wrong with getting nosebleed seats, as the dance critic for the New York Times Alastair Macaulay said:

“When you’re seated close to ballet, it’s easy to be distracted by other matters. Even the bloom on a dancer’s cheek can matter. From a distance, however, ballet’s marriage of music and dance becomes more central than ever. Such is the connection of time and space that you’re witnessing physics as drama.”

Even if you are watching The Nutcracker for the 12th time, the cool thing about the visual and performing arts is that there is always something new to discover. When you watch something for the first time, you may not exactly get the whole picture as you focus on the small details. There are so many angles to go about when watching a performance. The audience member interprets the massive work of art to his or her discretion – showing how personal the arts can be.

Check out more discounts relating to the visual and performing arts here.

About Michelle Cheng

Michelle Cheng (COM '17) is the Managing Editor of The Quad. She writes about higher education, digital culture and lifestyle. She has previously interned at Forbes, New York Family and Upworthy. Reach her at

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