Daniel Ketchelos— Staff Writer
A group of music-loving, guitar-strumming guys gather outside the Fruited Plain Café. Discussions about prominent bands and music expression fill the coffee shop. When you put a group of college-age musicians together who need an outlet for expression– well, they form a band. Hence, the creation of Tone Def Lozers.
Tone Def Lozers is just one example of the continual wave of expression emerging from Dordt University. Students can audition for plays, form bands, take fine-art electives, perform in Pork n’ Bands, and more. While there are plenty of opportunities for students to artistically express themselves, why does it happen? And more importantly, why does it matter?
“It feels like there’s this validity arising towards artists,” Laremy De Vries, Philosophy Professor and Owner of The Fruited Plain Café, said. “You should express yourself, like you should do this artist thing— which feels really cool.”
The “artist thing” is the expression of oneself through an artform, whether it’s music, visual arts, or something else. An example of someone doing the “artist thing” is Damon Groen, front man of Tone Def Lozers.
“Everybody is yearning for a little bit of creative expression,” Groen said. “And I think it just happened to work out where we were all in the area, and we were going to be around for a little while, and had some free time to have fun with it.”
Dordt’s worship arts and art department are also encouraging individual expression through artforms.
“Through my time on a worship team, or even living life as a human, I grew more and more in need of an outlet for things, so I started writing music,” Groen said. “I think there was a place made for writing to become a part of my academic career, it didn’t start in my academic career, but it ended up being a large part of it.”
Outside of his own career, Groen said Dordt is encouraging the student body as a whole to step into the arts themselves.
“I think that Jeremy Perigo and Alex Priore validating the recording of music and putting it on Spotify models to students that, ‘Oh, I can do this,’” De Vries said. “It’s not just for people in the city, or people at the University of Iowa. You can be in a band in a small town, and you can make something. It can be a thing, and you should take it seriously.”
Morgan Stoltzfus, a senior graphic design major, often expresses herself through the visual arts.
“I think Dordt has a really cool and unique creative community,” Stoltzfus said. “I find myself being inspired by my classmates, or even people in the outside community of Sioux Center. Even professors like Vaughn [Donahue] are really encouraging in helping me find my style.”
The art department is also expanding to fulfill the needs of students seeking to grow their creativity, including the students who aren’t primarily art majors.
“We have a lot of students outside of the art department taking electives in photography, ceramics, drawing, painting, and design theory,” Donahue said. “They are taking these courses because they’ve never had that opportunity to, and they want to try something while they still have the chance.”
While artistic expression seems to be on the rise, students often miss their impact because of the short amount of time they’re at Dordt.
“It does seem like there are waves, and they always surprise me,” De Vries said. “I try to be the lighthouse keeper who sits there and watches, I just enjoy watching the scene unfold in certain kinds of ways.”
Donahue agreed with De Vries that artistic expression varies with time.
“When you’re able to work here for a long period of time, you see the broader picture and you see these waves come through,” Donahue said. “There are times where different departments that deal in creative things have these periods where a few students are more prominent in having their work seen on campus, and sometimes you have this combining of individuals that work really well together and just create more art.”
Outside of Dordt, De Vries said he wants the Fruited Plain to be somewhere Dordt students can feel welcome in exploring their personal artforms.
“I want to make a space that’s off campus and available for whatever wants to happen,” De Vries said. “We at the Fruited Plain and the Back-Back want to be a fertile ground for people to bring their seeds to be expressive and to root.”
Creative expression, according to Donahue, is not limited to just those in art fields.
“One of the things I hate the most is when I meet with someone who is a friend of an art student and I say to them, ‘Hey, you should take an art class,’ and they say, ‘Oh, I’m not creative, that’s not me.’” Donahue said. “While I can appreciate that it’s not a career and it’s not for everybody, stating that you’re not creative is completely false. We were created to be creators.”
Having a culture that promotes artistic expression, Donahue said, is important for the formation of students because of how much art responds to the state of culture.
“Art plays a very special role in our world,” Donahue said. “It allows us to respond and reflect on the world around us. Art can tackle issues of social justice, politics, faith, racial issues, and big problems in the world that sometimes just need to be looked at through a different lens.”