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'An open field': UNC presents many ways for students to connect with the arts

Seanna Chen, Katherine Zhang, Grace Chow, and Carina Lin pose for a portrait in the Coker Arboretum on Friday, April 15, 2022. Chen, Zhang, Chow, and Lin are members of UNC's Flying Silk, a Chinese dance group that focuses on ribbon and fan dance.

When rising senior Eric Leinweber was a first-year at UNC, he found himself overwhelmed by the amount of arts opportunities on campus.

Prior to attending UNC, he spent years training as a dancer and wanted to continue it in college. But with the University’s wide variety of dance groups, he struggled to decide which organization would be the best fit for him.

Seeking a community that would expose him to people of varying cultures and backgrounds, Leinweber eventually settled on Blank Canvas, UNC’s largest student-run dance company.

Now the president, he said that he has met some of his greatest friends through the company.

“There’s a whole lot more to Blank Canvas outside of the dance room," Leinweber said.

He became one out of hundreds of students who have found a place within UNC’s thriving arts community.

Whether they decide to incorporate art in their formal education through majors like dramatic art and music or would rather engage in the arts as a hobby, UNC supports student of all skill levels interested in the arts.

UNC offers over a hundred student organizations for theater, comedy, film, music, dance and creative writing, among other art forms. Groups include STV, a student-run television station, the Carolina Ukulele Ensemble and Flying Silk— UNC’s only classical Chinese dance group.

Seanna Chen, a rising senior in Flying Silk, auditioned for the troupe after encouragement from her cousin, who was a member at the time.

Despite initially having no intentions of doing anything dance-related in college and having no prior dance experience, Chen will be a co-captain of the group for the 2022-2023 school year.

“It was a really great opportunity for me to learn more about my culture while doing something new,” she said.

Though several student groups center on performance art, many others, like Student-Made UNC — an online shop selling handmade art — showcase art made by students.

Senior Delilah Eby is the founder and owner of knitwear company Delilah Designs. What began as a pandemic hobby evolved into a business for Eby, who sells her designs through Student-Made.

She said that being surrounded by so many creative people is inspiring.

“I’d say that it is very easy to make friends because I think that people who are interested in arts and love creating are generally similar-minded people,” Eby said.

There are also opportunities on campus for students who want to consume art rather than create it.

Students can attend performances by UNC’s professional theatre company in residence, PlayMakers Repertory Company, view art at the Ackland Art Museum and attend various events and exhibitions hosted by Arts Everywhere — an initiative that seeks to make the arts a fundamental aspect of University culture.

Arts Everywhere supports student projects, holds a monthly concert series and provides artists with supplies and spaces to create.

Kathryn Wagner, associate director of Arts Everywhere, said that joining a student arts organization can provide an opportunity to connect with like-minded students and build a network of friends.

She also said students can attend shows at discounted rates and take advantage of the Morrison Art Studio.

“Going there to kind of blow off steam and doodle or get creative and kind of help you de-stress is a great opportunity,” Wagner said.

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In April, Arts Everywhere launched the Students at Carolina Arts Network or “SCAN” — a platform containing resources and information regarding arts opportunities and organizations for student involvement.

The website offers a comprehensive guide for all things arts-related on campus, ranging from a list of reservable spaces to detailed information about student organizations and internship opportunities.

“Figuring out as a first-year what kind of community you want to be exposed to and then going from there — you really have an open field when it comes to the arts,” Leinweber said.