Assessing the Washington College Aesthetic: What Do the Pictures in the Dining Hall Say About WC’s Standard of Artistic Excellence?

By Dan Guarino
Elm Staff Writer

What is the aesthetic of Washington College? Depending on where you look, or who you ask, you’re going to get different answers. The older buildings may peddle to the “writer college” narrative a bit more wholeheartedly, but if you head over to Toll you might get more of a high-tech vibe, with its open multi-floor lobby and all glass everything.

What about Hodson, though? What is Hodson’s aesthetic? Why is it sort of difficult to define?

The architecture is pretty nice, if not a bit gaudy with just how modern it tries to play itself. That’s not really the problem. It’s more there’s little effort to make the interior nicer. And which photos are hanged.

“Well they’re bad quality,” Alexis Stella said.

“Its phone camera quality on printing paper, or at least it looks like it.” said Charles Simons, a junior and experienced photographer.

Lining the walls of the second floor of Hodson are dozens of blown up, grainy cell phone photos of students doing miscellaneous stuff. The activities range from walking, to standing, to doing quirky activities. Nearly every student I asked had something to say about the low quality of the photos. Many found the subject matter to be boring, but a few others took even greater issue.

“Well, first of all, I think it’s just, like, a total facade. This is not what life is actually like here at WC. Like, they just take the most picturesque moments and go, ‘This is Washington College,’ but it’s really not,” senior Rachel Martinez said. She said the photos add to the synthetic sense of happiness that is often put onto students at WC. “And I think the way they’re placed is really telling. Like that the left side [of the dining hall] is all picture of athletes because that’s where the athletes sit. They’re just perpetuating the already clique-y nature that’s going on.”

Other students said they wished they were asked how they would have liked to see the dining hall decorated.

“We live in a town filled with local artists,” Katelyn Larrimore said. “So why aren’t we supporting them by decorating the dining hall with visually appealing art that people will take the time to look at? If not local art, then student art. There are many options that are better than iPhone pictures of some friends posing in front of a wall.”

The pictures were a result of the call from the dining hall staff for students to send in photos. While that may be seen as something positive, it’s important to note that they may have not really had aesthetics in mind. Why should the students have to provide a needed service to the College for free? WC wouldn’t even have to pay to host local artists directly, as they could just put up artwork that the artist is trying to sell. Even then, it doesn’t seem like too much to ask for the school to toss a bit of our tuition into paying a few of the capable student photographers and artists to hang up work.

Simons, a student photographer who has taken DSLR quality photos both on campus and internationally said that he would welcome to opportunity to put up his photos in Hodson.

There’s a major aesthetic issue with the photos in the dining hall. It isn’t the fault of the students who took them, it’s not their job to create a conducive environment for eating and relaxing; that responsibility falls on WC itself. The school should put forth the time, effort, and really, the money to make the interior of their buildings artistically appealing. Creativity takes work, and work isn’t free.

However, Donald Stanwick, Director of Dining Services, said he is open to artwork from the students. So if you think you’d have something worthwhile to hang up, feel free to contact them.

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