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Patrons give Arts for Ohio 'Two thumbs up!'
Free admission prompts larger-than-usual crowds

Oct. 29, 2007
By Anita Martin

Foreign films have never been a genre of choice for Elizabeth Stapp, a first-year student who's more likely to choose a blockbuster at the Athena Grand. But October's Cinematheque film series -- the first of a monthly series supported by the new Arts for Ohio initiative -- may have changed her mind.

"This one was good; I wasn't expecting to like it," Stapp said after a Cinematheque screening of "Fire," a 1996 film written and directed by Deepa Mehta, about two modern-day Indian women who, dissatisfied with their marriages, turn to each other for love and support. 

Stapp attended the Cinamatheque film for her Fine Arts Experience class, and she's looking forward to more Arts for Ohio performances. In addition to Cinematheque films, Arts for Ohio provides students with free admission to College of Fine Arts productions, such as theater and dance.

"It's nice that it's free. There are so many interesting things on the calendar of events," said Stapp, who also planned to see "Betty's Summer Vacation," a production by the School of Theater, and the School of Music's "Octubafest" concert. 

Stapp's not alone. According to Ruth Bradley, director of the Athens Center for Film and Video, the first Cinematheque film series Oct. 12-18 dramatically increased the Athena Cinema's traffic.

"And with only one exception, there were always more folks at the second screening (of each film) than at the first," she said. "On the first day of the series, I talked to a group of freshman women and a group of sophomore men (attending a Cinematheque film), and the next day, they all came back -- and they brought friends."

Similarly, students represented about 78 percent of audiences at the School of Theater's recent production "Betty's Summer Vacation," which closed Oct. 20. That, says William Fisher, interim director of the School of Theater, is up significantly.

"There is absolutely no question that Arts for Ohio influenced attendance and interest in our opening production. I expect it to all year -- and hopefully in years to come," Fisher said. "Making the arts as accessible as sports was easy for students to accept, and in my view that should become their rightful expectation."

Fisher talked with audience members after each performance of "Betty's Summer Vacation," asking students for their thoughts on Arts for Ohio.

"A large number (said they) came to the theater because of Arts for Ohio and did not attend productions in years past. They also said they would return all year," Fisher said. "The excitement for the show -- and for the fact that students had a new benefit in their cultural and educational life -- was palpable."

The first School of Dance performance, the Senior Dance Concert, will be presented at 7 and 9 p.m. Nov. 1-3 in the Shirley Wimmer Dance Theatre in Putnam Hall. Thanks to Arts for Ohio, students may attend for free. Admission for other audience members is $6.

Arts for Ohio also supports new arts programming, such as the Korean traditional drumming concert, "Eolsigu!" This free, public performance, partially funded by Arts for Ohio, will take place at 8 p.m. today in Templeton-Blackburn Memorial Alumni Auditorium. 

The Arts for Ohio Initiative was funded by a starter grant from the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. The funding compensates for ticket income and covers the cost of new initiatives and advertising related to the program, which was advocated by the undergraduate and graduate student senates and the Student General Fee Committee.

An advisory board made up of five students, two faculty members, an administrator and a College of Fine Arts school director is helping to guide the Arts for Ohio process. A report planned by the end of the academic year will offer a comprehensive look at the program and make recommendations for the future. 

The Arts for Ohio Advisory Committee is in the process of reviewing proposals for additional arts programming this year, said Maureen Wagner, director of Arts for Ohio and assistant director of the School of Theater.

Michelle Davey contributed to this story.

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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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