Nassau Hall to become arts learning community

Nassau Hall staff and students are continuing to transform the dorm into a haven for students interested in arts. This process began after Nassau Hall Council conceived the idea three years ago. As far as specialty housing goes, Nassau Hall is unique in multiple respects.

First and foremost, it is twice as large as the other specialty dormitories on campus––housing over 200 students. It also does not require an application process to live there.

“This very much is a grassroots project,” residence director Neal Brooks said. This sets it apart from other specialty housing as well because students and residence assistants have largely undertaken the transformation.

These ideas are largely supported and implemented by Brooks, who was present for the original conception of the idea and continues to work with professor of English and Dean of Residential Living Celia Easton to turn them into a reality.

So far, Nassau has been changing one project at a time. Residents have painted benches, added a mosaic under the residence assistant service desk, painted over the large whiteboard that faces the entry and hung up painted ironing boards as art pieces in certain quads. “Maybe one day, every inch of the walls will be murals,” Brooks said.

The dorm also began featuring local and student artists, hanging their art in the main entry and quad. Currently displayed is a collection of works by campus photographer Keith Walters ‘11.

The change in façade has an important role in Nassau’s transformation as an arts dorm, but ideas extend far beyond that to encouraging creativity in residents. Brooks explained that he hopes to install a painting room and music library over the summer where students can have a peaceful space to pursue their interests. In addition, plans are in the works to eventually convert the basement lounge to a dance studio. “Every year, we brainstorm more ideas,” he said.

Nassau has been engaging with the artistic side of campus for years. Members just helped plan the second Battle of the Artists, worked with other organizations to create the Beehive Collective and brought painter Ilene Sova to campus. Nassau also works closely with Brodie Hall in promoting and supporting its events.

“It’s a priority to bring these resources to campus and give students accessibility to them,” Brooks said. “It’s important that the campus at large knows what’s happening.”

Nassau Hall will be advertised to current and incoming students as a specialized dorm for those interested in the arts.

The role of Nassau as an arts community has grown in importance this past year due to the budget cuts in Geneseo’s studio art program. Brooks noted that while he worried that the reduction in arts on campus would curb interest, an opposite effect has taken place.

“Although it originated prior to the closing of the studio art department, the development of Nassau’s arts community became even more necessary when that happened in order to continue recognizing the value of the arts,” senior Residence Assistant Paige-Elizabeth Avery said in an email interview.

The plan for Nassau’s transformation highlights inclusivity on the entire campus. Students do not have to live in Nassau or have a certain level of artistic talent to participate in Nassau activities or the remodeling of the dorm hall.

“Something important that we try to stress is that everyone can connect with the arts,” Avery said. “You don’t have to be a traditional artist who can draw, paint and photograph.”