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Art culture at a "jock school"?

macdacmacdac Registered User Posts: 15 New Member
I was initially attracted to Williams upon word of its renowned art history program. I’ve heard good things about its studio art program, and know firsthand that their campus art museum is one of the best of its kind. Not only that, but there are supposedly great things to do in the vicinity-- seeing shows and exhibitions and whatnot. At first thought, with all the resources available, it seems that such an art culture would flourish— but Williams seems to be labeled consistently as a “rich, white jock school” for future investment bankers et al. (sorry for generalizing) so I wonder what it would be like to study art at such a school? Obviously, I’m a little conflicted with its characterization.
Could anyone here describe the atmosphere at Williams? Is there a large enough critical mass for a successful and active art culture? If so, is the student body heavily polarized across arts and athletics? (As I doubt there are many who are actively involved in both.) Do the art participants form a small and niche group on campus? It would be great to hear from an art student there, or someone who has experience with the arts at Williams. Thanks!

Replies to: Art culture at a "jock school"?

  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 30,893 Senior Member
    My nephew went to Williams -- he was a history and psych major who went on to med school & works in the mental health field now. His family is not rich (dad is a high school teacher, mom worked part time in a hospital lab). He did play basketball in high school, but not college. He loved Williams. I think the point is that you can find all types of people there. And there ARE people in the world who love athletics and art. One of my kids finished in the top 5 in our state in her individual sport, and also has a secondary concentration in visual arts in college (not at Williams, but the point is that athletics and art aren't mutually exclusive interests).

    That is the thing about an LAC. Students there often explore a wide range of areas, and can have more than one area of interest. I feel like our high school structure today (especially large high schools) require kids to focus a lot on one or two things, or they can't be good enough to compete. The LAC environment is purposely set up for exploration and allowing students to have more areas of interest. My kids went to an LAC-type high school, and there were lots of students there who did many activities, and a fair number of kids in sports who also were accomplished in art.

    Have you visited Williams? If not, do so.
  • marvin100marvin100 Registered User Posts: 9,033 Senior Member
    I played A-side rugby and studied poetry and studio art. Sports and the arts are not in opposition.
  • laticheverlatichever Registered User Posts: 1,516 Senior Member
    ^^Van Cleve was a talented hooker, but not in Raphael's class. Neither played at Williams though.
  • momrathmomrath Registered User Posts: 5,689 Senior Member
    My son majored in art history + art studio at Williams. The art history departments deserves its reputation of one of the best in the country and art studio is a good adjunct -- excellent facilities, professors who are also working artists. Summer internships, career placement and and graduate school acceptances in the arts are all very good.

    Music and theater are also well funded and supported. In all, compared to other LACs in its academic cohort, Williams fares well in all of the arts.

    How does this comport with the athletic/sporty side of Williams personality? First, Williams is not a "rich, white, jock school for future investment bankers." That perception is so cockeyed, it's hard to know where to begin.

    As at most selective schools there is a component of students that come from wealthy families, but receiving financial aid is more common than not. Same for White: like all rurally located LACs, recruiting high achieving non-Whites is a challenge, but again, Williams does well on its racial diversity percentages.

    And as for "jock" if you mean varsity athlete, just look at the percentages of all small LACs. If they field 25 to 30 teams they are going to have a consistent percentage of students who play varsity sports.

    I think Williams does have a physically active culture which can be manifested in team sports -- both varsity and casual -- and in individual activities that befit its rural, mountain setting. Participating in sports and outdoorsy activities in no way precludes an interest in art, art history or any of the arts. Look at Kurt Varnadoe, one of the great directors of MoMA, who played football at Williams.

    And, yes, Williams is well represented on Wall Street, but its graduates are also an important part of American museum culture. The top majors are economics, math, political science, English, history and art, which can lead to whole host of careers -- in business, in the arts, in education, in advocacy, you name it.

    My son's social group mostly originated in his first year entry, Williams resident hall arrangement. They represented a wide range of majors, extracurriculars, talents and interests. I think it's true that some sports teams bond more than others, but I don't see "polarization" between athletes and non-athletes or artists and non-artists.

    Now, 7 years after graduating from Williams, my son and his colleagues in the art and art history department have done very well in art related careers and graduate programs, in no small way aided by their professors, the career counseling center, the alumni/ae network and Williams' name recognition in the field.
  • electronblueelectronblue Registered User Posts: 1,304 Senior Member
    It's not like the jocks can major in recreation studies or communications at Williams. And art majors still have to take courses across the divisions, so yes, there is a lot of crossover. One issue for studio art majors in recent years is having enough classes and seats within those classes to meet demand. I would worry more about that when comparing schools.
  • EphmanEphman Registered User Posts: 441 Member
    If you do end up attending Williams, or really, regardless of which school you attend, you would be best served by a change of perspective ... perhaps in your high school, kids are divided into artists and jocks, but that is most certainly not going to be the case in college (and moving forward, in life after college), and particularly not at Williams. To give just one example, read about recent grad Emmanuel Whyte, who starred in both football and the arts:

    http://ephsports.williams.edu/sports/fball/2012-13/releases/20130316zkm8mu.

    He is not the exception, but rather the rule at Williams.

    When I was at Williams we had a all-American football player who was a studio art major and went on to attend a top-ten med school, another football player who set multiple Williams records who ended up working in film production, and an all-American soccer player who was in the leading campus a cappella group, again, among many, many other examples; these are just a few guys I happened to know. Almost everyone at Williams was deeply engaged in multiple endeavors in high school, and if there is one defining characteristic of the student body, it is not remotely akin to "rich, jock, future investment bankers" (who as a group compose, certainly, well under 10 percent of the class, even if you accept that simplistic characterization), but rather, that students tend to be extraordinarily well-rounded.
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