In the discussion that unfolded at this post about the humanities at GW, Calder Stembel kindly linked to a letter he composed to The Hatchet about arts and politics at this institution. The letter in its entirety is worth your time, but I want to excerpt some parts that speaks to the crux of the problem:
Based on GW’s student body, curriculum and budget allocations, you wouldn’t think that D.C. had much to offer in the way of arts. Who cares that the Library of Congress just completed a project to restore its Thomas Jefferson Building? Who is excited to see Antony and Cleopatra, opening next week at The Shakespeare Theatre Company? … In focusing on politics at the expense of the arts, attending GW does not represent the overall experience of living in D.C. – the city has the potential to be a cultural capital as much as a political one.
GW seems to forget that to understand any foreign society, one must study its culture – including music, theater and dance and film … All of the resources exist in D.C. for a successful arts curriculum, but they do not exist at GW … It is impossible to attend school in D.C. without considering the city’s artistic and cultural side. Politics and art are both integral parts of the city, and it is about time that students at GW be able to take advantage of the city’s vibrant culture.
It seems to me that many of our students have caught on to this: that’s why the English major is doing so well here, despite the institutions ardor for all things contemporary and policy-directed. What will it take for GW to be proud of the humanities in and of DC, in and of the university itself, and to nurture humanistic study to ensure that GW is well known for its strengths in these disciplines?