The little venues: A look at events on campus you hardly hear about
It’s a Tuesday at 3 p.m. in Tisch Commons. As usual, there are tables full of notes, laptops and half-eaten meals. There are also violins playing with rich tones that soothe over the laughter, the conversations and the clatter of forks.
Yes, on this particular Tuesday, Sept. 15, the St. Louis Symphony was promoting its Symphony on the Swamp at Washington University. While the music isn’t always live, Director of the Danforth University Center Leslie Heusted said that Tuesday Tea @ the DUC, held every Tuesday at 3 p.m., normally has music through the speakers, too. Students come to Tuesday Tea for the complimentary tea and cookies, as well as for the chance to win different prizes.
“We wanted people to see [the DUC] as a gathering place,” explained Heusted about the purpose of the event. “Tea is peace, really.”
The event has become so popular that, beginning this fall, Tuesday Tea is being hosted by different campus and external organizations—the LGTB Office, Stressbusters and Campus Collaborative are among the upcoming ones. This gives group representatives a chance to mingle casually with students as they unwind.
The event has become a low-key, easy-access gathering that happens on a regular basis, adding to Wash. U.’s social scene. Indeed, there are many of these types of gatherings, scattered throughout campus and cross sectioning several subjects and interests.
Hurst Lounge, which is decorated with delicate angel sculptures and a bay window that serves as an elegant podium backdrop, is home to the English Department’s Fall Reading Series. These readings are intimate affairs, meant for a small crowd and an environment for feedback.
“We usually get all of our graduate students and our MFA students, and these teachers often invite their undergraduate students. It’s usually a pretty comfortable crowd, with 50 to 100 people to any given reading,” said Assistant Director of the Writing Program David Schuman. “We also have a book sale and a small reception afterwards.”
There are approximately four to five readings per semester, and in that same period of time, a pair of visiting Hurst professors stay on campus for two weeks worth of workshops. This fall’s visiting professors are Ricky Ducornet – a multifaceted painter, novelist and poet – and Claudia Rankine, winner of several poetry prizes. While graduate English students are the normal beneficiaries of these readings, undergraduates have their own reading—scheduled for Nov. 19—and an open invitation to appreciate literature.
“The bigger crowd we get, the more exciting for everyone involved. We have 20 graduate students here, and we can count them in these events, but the more, the merrier,” Schuman said.
Other gatherings have been a quiet staple of Wash. U. culture for years. Jazz at Holmes, held Thursdays at 8 p.m. in Holmes Lounge, began in 1996 as “a small intimate support setting for an alternative style of music on campus,” according to Steven Ehrlich, associate dean of academics at University College.
Brownies, local and regional jazz performers and a “beautiful venue,” as Ehrlich declared, have made Jazz at Holmes a hit week after week for more than a decade and for more than just student audiences.
“We bring together the St. Louis community and campus. We get a couple of hundred people, about half students, half community,” Ehrlich said.
There will always be Edison Theater, the Assembly Series and W.I.L.D. offering great experiences on campus. But there are also alternatives that you can take advantage of periodically by just being in the right place at the right time. Mark your calendars, and enjoy what Wash. U. offers in little doses.
Fall Reading Series: Rikki Ducornet, Thursday, Oct. 1
Jazz at Holmes: Scott Alberici, Thursday, Oct. 1
Tuesday Tea, Tuesday, Oct. 6