Losing some spaces, gaining others: Here’s a glimpse at the future of on campus performance art at Fisher

Photo by Staff Photographer Nicole Pomerleau

By Madison Weber and Jenna Costello

The Dance Club found out they were losing their rehearsal space to the new wrestling program, causing many to ask what is the future of performing arts at Fisher? Now there are renovation plans for a new performance space in Murphy Hall. 

Earlier this year, St. John Fisher College announced the addition of a new wrestling program — in Michaelhouse, where the dance team rehearses.

The school also announced renovations to Mainstage, which look like along with being renamed, it will not have a stage. 

With all these additions,  performance spaces on campus seem to be dwindling, however, the school is currently working on plans for a new space in Murphy Chapel for students. 

The school plans to add a new performance space to Murphy Chapel. (Photo by Staff Writer Madison Weber)

According to student and Vice President of Fisher Dance Club Rhianna Nasal, the newly established wrestling team took the space in Michaelhouse that the dance team currently uses to practice. Club members did not find out about the changes through the college, but instead from a post by Fisher Athletics confirming the construction of a new wrestling pavilion in what was the Michaelhouse performing arts space. 

According to the team, the decision was discouraging.  “A lot of us feel like performing arts are not valued at Fisher,” Nasal said. 

The Cardinal Courier reached out to the Athletics Department and asked how the decision was made and if students were involved at all in the processes. They did not respond to a request for comment. 

“It is stressful not knowing where we will be rehearsing next semester. Last semester, we were able to use Cleary Auditorium for our rehearsals because no other clubs were using it at the time. However, now that some other performing arts clubs are able to rehearse again, Cleary Auditorium is being used more often and we cannot hold our rehearsals there anymore.” 

Some feel that Cleary Auditorium has also posed a personal safety issue, with so many different people gathered in one place to rehearse during a pandemic. With multiple clubs and events utilizing the same space, it can be difficult to find practice times for different art clubs on campus. Especially with dance, placing too many people in one place can create risk for students. 

As the number of spaces for the arts on campus decreases, the school is making efforts to build more after strong student feedback. Currently, there are plans to turn the Murphy Coleman Chapel into an arts space. These plans have been around for several years but were put on pause due to the pandemic. 

“It would be a tremendous hindrance to Fisher students to not be exposed to those kinds of finishing touches on their education,” Dr. Ruben Gomez said. 

Gomez is an art enthusiast and teaches many art classes on campus. He was on the original committee to turn the chapel into an arts space. Fisher is not known for its abundance of art majors but Gomez feels the arts are still important on campus. 

“We’re very science-oriented now, and they are pushing athletics. I have no problem with that. Sacrificing basic humanistic arts is when I get upset. Arts give you a sense of the world, and create well-rounded human beings.” 

There have been several meetings this year for students who are interested in the arts to attend and voice their needs and concerns.  Provost Kevin Railey is heading the committee to turn the chapel into an art space and says those meetings have had a good turnout. 

“What we have come to understand is that there are a lot of our students who have these talents and interests,” Railey said that the school strives to provide opportunities for students to use their talents. According to Railey, the Murphy chapel is well built for the transition to a performance space.  The school has already had individuals test out the acoustics of the building. This is in part due to the fact that it was originally designed as a chapel where a choir would sing.  

Railey confirms that it is hard to have a timeline for the project, but said the school is committed to using that space for this purpose. “We are going to do everything we can to get it done as quickly and effectively as possible.” However, he does say that an area will be finished by the spring semester for rehearsals. He is hopeful that the project will give Fisher an arts venue that it had been previously lacking, and create more on-campus opportunities — including giving more students a reason to go to Murphy. 


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