The housing lottery has sent everyone into a tizzy and friendships have recently been put to the ultimate test, but room selection is finally drawing to a close. Next year will bring many changes to residential life, including the opening of the new dorms. However, it will also mark the end of some traditions. Arts House, the theme house that has consistently occupied Pierce House and where I’ve lived the past two years, will no longer exist—not just in Pierce, but anywhere. Pierce House will become “The Health and Fitness House,” and Bates students interested in art of all varieties will lose a place of community.
Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I fully support the Health and Fitness House; I think that it will be important to the Frye Street community and I do not want to sound at all like I don’t believe that this house should exist. What I’m trying to say is that the arts community is extremely disjointed on campus, and while we have a multitude of clubs dedicated to the arts (Bates Arts Society, Bates Authors Guild, AMANDLA, BMU, Circus Arts, A Cappella groups, Sangai Asia, and more) the great thing about Arts House was that it brought together enthusiasts of every medium. Arts House wasn’t “Painting House” or “Guitar Players’ House,” it was a home to everyone who loved to create, and even to those that didn’t create but enjoyed being in a community that valued creativity. On top of that, the house was inclusive in so many ways. We were always a safe space that did not tolerate discriminatory behavior and made an effort to make our house feel like a home.
When I was a freshman, like so many others, I was lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, I didn’t make close friends immediately, and I wasn’t sure how to navigate the social scene of our very small campus. By November, I was already looking at transfer applications. However, I was lucky enough to run into some sophomores (now seniors) that lived in Pierce at the time who took me under their wing and invited me to come hang out at Arts House. And just like that, I found my niche at Bates. Unfortunately, that niche was one of the only of its kind—where any student, regardless of background or major, could retreat to share a conversation with a diverse group of people, like a saxophone player, a ceramicist, a poet, or a videographer, all under the same roof. With Arts House gone, we have lost that.
The official reason for the dissolution of Arts House was our lack of programming for the Bates community. However, an extremely limited budget makes achieving the required frequency of programming difficult. I fully agree that theme houses should host events on a regular basis, but having residents finance this is a huge burden and we shouldn’t expect every resident to be able to give money. So yes, ideally Arts House would have had more programming, but its death is still a solemn occasion.
Next year, my final year at Bates, will feel a little emptier without Arts House, but this loss of home is an opportunity for us—as artists, as people—to make the arts a more visible priority on this campus and to continue to strengthen the creative community. Whether it’s through clubs, collaborations, gatherings, or friendships we need to carry on the spirit of Pierce.