Of the many clubs on campus, few serve simply as an outlet for us, let alone a creative outlet. There are of course the that seem to have insurmountable barriers of entry. On the other end of the spectrum there are the who spend days and nights together to work on shows. In between are the vast array of other clubs, many of which emanate preprofessional vibes regardless of whether or not they are preprofessional in nature.
And then there’s the Penn Art Club, which self-describes as a space that “allows everyone on campus to have a creative outlet, whether its making art, looking at art, talking about art, or just enjoying the company of other artists.” Through a range of activities such as mural painting sessions, field trips, and public art projects, it aims to engage more students with their inner artists.
In addition to all of this, Art Club collaborates with Harrison College House to host “Art Ins,” monthly open arts and crafting workshops. During these two–hour sessions, Art Club provides all the supplies, striving only to help the participants create. “It’s more about expressing personality and individuality rather than building up skills,” says Eddie Cai (C’ 21), the public art director.
But the club expands outside the bounds of Penn’s bubble. It also coordinates educational outreach programs and volunteer activities for younger students in West Philadelphia. For example, during last year's Green Week, a week in which every constituent group of the Student Sustainability Association at Penn hosts a myriad of sustainability–oriented events, Art Club painted a tree on a canvas, laying out the painting for everyone to pick up a leaf and add to the tree. It was an effort to incorporate more of Penn’s otherwise fairly preprofessional culture into the art scene. Last semester, they organized a walking tour to see the in Philly both to admire and engage with the history of the city. This semester they plan to organize several field trips, including one to the James Turrell–designed skyspace at Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting where they will complete a mural in the Quad.
The events are always open to the public. “No one has to apply to be involved. It’s designed for people who like to know others by doing these activities and those who share art as their common interest,” explains Art Club President Natasha Cheung (C ‘20). “Common interest not as a mastery, but just as something they’re interested in.” To Natasha, college, particularly Penn, has often felt like the students have to be good at something in order to validate their interests. But in her view, college is supposed to be a place to try new things. This is where Art Club comes in; it attempts to create “leeway,” as she puts it, for anyone who’s even remotely interested in the arts to join.
Philadelphia itself is a city flourishing in the arts. Take a walk to Center City (or Uber in this weather) and see world–class exhibits at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), the , the Barnes Foundation, and even just the beauty of the city. “There’s so much art around us. That’s probably why people take arts for granted,” Eddie says.
The art scene at Penn is certainly not the mainstream one in a culture predominated by a professional atmosphere. Nevertheless, it serves as a meeting place, a study break, and a scene of creation. And that’s what Penn Art Club is about.