Arts + Culture
Arts are essential to student life at St. John’s—both in and out of the classroom. The study of music is part of the academic Program and expands into extracurriculars through choruses, bands, and the weekly Sicut Cervus sing. Plays and poetry studied in seminar and tutorials are echoed by theater productions and literary magazines, and annual exhibitions at the on-campus Mitchell Gallery bring world-class art and historical objects (think: Shakespeare’s First Folio) right to students. At the end of each semester, the entire campus community gathers to share their talents at Collegium, a tradition that gives students, tutors, and staff members an opportunity to show off their musical talents.
Opened in 1989, the Mitchell Gallery hosts more than 10,000 visitors each year for a diverse array of exhibitions and programs. Past shows have featured Shakespeare’s First Folio, celebrated artists such as Bruegel, Rembrandt, Matisse, Miro, Rodin, and Warhol, and centuries-old illuminated manuscripts, while others have highlighted the unique historical and artistic offerings of the Annapolis area. The Mitchell Gallery serves the community of St. John’s College and the broader Annapolis community as a resource for all ages to experience museum-quality art by viewing, discussing, and engaging in activities about the world of fine art. The Gallery’s modern design is attributable to architect Chip Bohl, who was recognized with a citation of merit from the American Institute of Architects in 1989.
Each spring, the Mitchell Gallery presents an exhibition of work by community and regional artists, and it is home to yearlong programming, including receptions, lectures, and discussions with curators and collectors, hands-on creative workshops, and more. All exhibitions and most programs are free and open to the public.
The King William Players, the Annapolis campus’ student-run theater troupe, has been producing shows at St. John’s for decades. Offerings vary widely by year from the classic to the contemporary, and anyone in the Polity can take to the stage—so don’t be surprised if you’re playing opposite your math tutorial tutor. (Just don’t call them the King William’s Players.)
Occasionally, other theater opportunities will pop up on campus, including Improv groups and one-woman (or other identity) shows put on by independent thespians. And then there’s the Homerathon, a spring tradition in which students are invited out for a 24-hour dramatic reading of Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey (depending on the year) from start to finish. Reenactments are not required, but they commonly occur, particularly during some more exciting acts.
2019–20 KWP Season
Phédre by Jean Racine, directed by Sadie Funk (A20)
The Shape of Things by Neil LaBute, directed by Ellie Gold Laabs (A22)
Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (30 original plays), directed by Sam Berrettini (A21)
The Bacchae by Euripides, directed by Jack Condie (A20)
The Tempest by William Shakespeare, directed by Mackenzie Daffner (A20)
The Zoo Story by Edward Albee, directed by Charles J. Carpenter (A20)
During your first year on campus, you’ll participate in the Freshman Chorus, a mandatory singing group featuring the entire freshman class that prepares students for the work of the Sophomore Music Tutorial. The preparation is two-fold: students learn the basics necessary for reading music notation and they learn to sing great choral pieces that illustrate the musical elements studied in the Sophomore Music Tutorial. Freshman Chorus meets once a week and provides freshmen with a common musical experience, regardless of their formal education in music.
Next comes Sophomore Music, which seeks to develop an understanding of music through attentive listening, close study of musical theory, and the analysis of works of music by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Palestrina, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg (among others). Students undertake a thorough investigation of the diatonic system, a study of melody, counterpoint, and harmony, and an investigation of rhythm in words as well as in notes. Music tutorials meet three times per week: two shorter sessions for discussion, and one longer session for singing.
With this kind of basis, it’s no surprise that many students are involved in extracurricular music groups—the Madrigal Choir, which performs songs from the 15th and 16th centuries; the St. John’s Chorus, which brings students, faculty, and staff together for a weekly rehearsal; the Contemporary Choir, which brings things into the 21st century, the Jazz Band, and many more. Students also often gather for jam sessions in dorms or on the Quad, and you’ll often see Johnnies playing their instruments all over campus (recently including a bagpiper and harpist). Oh, and don’t forget the every-Wednesday “Sicut Sing,” where students gather at the Pendulum Pit to sing St. John’s unofficial anthem, Sicut Cervus.
The Annapolis campus is home to artists of all kinds. Creators often gather in Mellon Hall, which houses the pottery studio, art studio, and darkroom. For those more interested in instruction, there’s the Fine Arts program. Revamped in recent years, the program offers classes in drawing, painting, and ceramics, “open studio” hours during which students can gather to create, frequent field trips to art museums in Baltimore, Washington, DC, and beyond, and tutor-led art discussions on topics pertaining to (or specific pieces) of art. Open studio is home to acrylic, watercolor, and oil paints, brushes, pastels, charcoals, canvases, pencils, markers, inks, art books, and materials like newsprint and magazines for collage. The best part? Everything is completely free.
The college recently partnered with the Newington-Cropsey Foundation for the “Garden of Great Ideas” Fellowship, which offers two students a year the chance to travel to Paris and New York to learn how to do bronze casting.
At the end of both the Fall and Spring semesters, the entire campus community gathers for Collegium, a beloved tradition on both campuses. The concert, held in the Great Hall of McDowell, showcases the musical talents of students and faculty and includes performances from both individuals and the many musical groups on campus, like the Jazz Band, madrigal choir, and contemporary choir. In the fall, expect holiday tunes and performances of Program classics, while the spring brings a diverse mix of musical stylings.