Mini-Grants Help Students Showcase Their Talent


It is not every day, or even every four years, that a college student has the chance to direct an orchestra, work with acclaimed dancers, or run a theater production. But in the past month, Dartmouth students have done just that thanks to a new opportunity to showcase their skills during the Year of the Arts.

Samuel Tan Jun Jie ’14 set up a workshop and performances with four prominent “street soul” dancers. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

As the first recipients of the Year of the Arts and Dartmouth Centers Forum mini-grants, Paul Finkelstein ’13, Samuel Tan Jun Jie ’14, and Olivia Scott ’13 staged an orchestra recital, a dance workshop, and a theater production, respectively.

Jeff James, a co-chair for the Year of the Arts Steering committee, hopes this will provide opportunities that go beyond the classroom.

“The student mini-grant program was created to offer opportunities for students to explore ideas that go beyond regular programming structures,” says James, the Howard Gilman Director of the Hopkins Center for the Arts. “We’re hoping students will use this initiative to test new ways of engaging with the arts.”

The mini-grants inspire students to do just that, if the first recipients are any indication.

Olivia Scott ’13 organized an interpretation of the play “Talk” by Carl Hancock Rux. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

“There aren’t many opportunities on campus for a student to conduct an orchestra, so this mini-grant enabled an experience that would have otherwise been impossible,” says Finkelstein.

He organized a “Conducting Recital and Orchestra Concert” in Rollins Chapel, a free concert that featured music by Edvard Grieg and Joseph Haydn. Finkelstein says he was glad to provide a concert for the community while gaining valuable experience himself. “It has pushed me forward as a conductor and given me more confidence on the podium,” he says.

Scott put on a theater production, held in the Hopkins Center for the Arts, which combined elements of poetry, theater, and music. The show was an interpretation of the play Talk by Carl Hancock Rux, in which the story was “interspersed with songs and poetry that complimented the themes presented in the play,” she says.

Paul Finkelstein ’13 conducted an orchestra recital in Rollins Chapel. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

“This event helped bring full circle the idea that art and performance are available as expressions for everyone. This event allowed for more voices, more stories, more discussion on what student performance art can be at Dartmouth.”

The Dartmouth Centers Forum and the Year of the Arts Steering Committee reviewed proposals from students for a wide range of projects. In their applications, students explained how their project would contribute to the Dartmouth community, their outreach strategies, and how they would budget for the event.

Tan, who teaches a dance form called “popping,” planned a dance workshop, which brought in four prominent street dancers from Montreal and California to teach and perform dance. He says he was surprised at the enthusiasm and willingness of participants to try unique dance styles like “the scarecrow,” “the puppet,” and “the robot.” Tan says the workshop and party were evidence that Dartmouth students have an interest in events that provide good, clean fun.

“I believe this will help me lead and teach street soul better, be a better dancer, and help me to organize even more successful events in the future,” says Tan. He hopes participants found an appreciation for the dance forms and also for the culture that surrounds street dancing.

The opportunities for student projects will continue through the Year of the Arts as the Steering Committee and the Dartmouth Centers Forum will be accepting project proposals for mini-grants in the winter and spring terms. Winter term applications for student mini-grants are due by January 11.

“I am always impressed,” says Michael Casey, the James Wright Professor of Music, and a co-chair of the Steering Committee, “by the enduring resourcefulness of Dartmouth students at creating and performing original works of art across the campus.”

Dartmouth has long been a leader in integrating the arts into the collegiate experience, from the establishment of one of the nation’s first campus-based performing arts centers to the commissioning of new work and promotion of artist-in-residence programs on campus. Dartmouth is reaffirming and deepening its commitment to the arts throughout the 2012-13 academic year through a yearlong series of special programs, events, and initiatives that highlights the centrality of the arts as an indispensable component of its educational experience. Major initiatives include the opening of the Black Family Visual Arts Center, the 50th anniversary of the Hopkins Center for the Arts, the initiation of an expansion project at the Hood Museum of Art, as well as a series of programs exploring the intersections between the arts and other disciplines. Together these initiatives reflect and celebrate both the university’s historic commitment to the arts and its role as a model for the artistic campus of the 21st century. The public art initiative of the Year of the Arts at Dartmouth is made possible in part by the generous support of the Offices of the President and the Provost. For more information, please visit

Keith Chapman