What Happened to Personal Enrichment? A Reflection on the Death and Possible Resurrection of the Crafts Center

OpinionStaff Op-Ed

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UC San Diego once offered a creative sanctuary—something that is now hard to believe for a campus boasting a reputation as a top-tier STEM school.

According to UCSD’s General Catalog, the Crafts Center offered “studio and art/crafts instructional facilities in ceramics, photography, jewelry, drawing, neon, glass blowing, and other crafts.” Existing for 40 years before its closure back in 2012, the Crafts Center was a creative hub for artists and non-artists alike, offering “personal enrichment” and “creative educational opportunities” for people of all backgrounds. It was a place for the entire community to gather together and make art.

So what happened? Somewhere in the midst of budgets and renovations, UCSD disregarded their idea of personal enrichment and seemed to give up on the notion of cultivating itself as a multifaceted institution; that is, as a school geared toward those interested in the arts as well as the sciences. By discarding a program that was once a place for exploring diverse artistic mediums, UCSD isolated itself from the communities it could serve and only added to its reputation of being “socially dead.”

While it could be argued that UCSD already offers art classes, the offerings are limited (after all, UCSD does not even offer basic creative classes, like a ceramics class). But simply implementing ceramics classes or glass blowing classes would not be a proper solution either, since the Crafts Center was not necessarily an academic environment.  Instead, this could potentially cultivate an environment that would be the antithesis of the welcoming space that was the Crafts Center.

The closure of the Crafts Center feeds into the notion that UCSD is constantly changing, so much so that it has a hard time maintaining a singular identity. In UCSD’s mission to be a name that is recognizable nationwide, we are abandoning the small communities that exist around us.

To counter this, we need to be more thoughtful about the changes we make and whether they are positive, or just erasure. As a school, how can we establish ourselves as a name that everyone knows, when our own alumni struggle to acknowledge the school they once attended? How can we support progress without bulldozing our foundations?

To begin with, we should not abandon our creativity as a school. UCSD has many students that are interested in the arts, and this is apparent in the popularity of communities such as the General Store Co-op and other creative hubs. Furthermore, by emphasizing the importance of the arts, UCSD would be adding to its legacy. While many people try to forget the stressful midterms or bad experiences they might have had in college, they hold onto the good memories: the moments they spent with friends staying up too late, the buzz they got before starting a class they’re interested in, and in the Crafts Center’s case, de-stressing by going to a place where they can make art without judgement and meet people of various backgrounds.

The arts can foster a lasting impact for both the alumni and the student community alike. While there are tentative plans to implement a new Crafts Center, UCSD needs to ensure that this Crafts Center not only follows the message the Crafts Center served before, but is also a place for everyone to feel included—both non-artists and artists.

If we want to offer students an unforgettable college experience and brand ourselves as a recognizable institution, then we need to slow down a bit, stop with the constant renovations (or at least work with what we have rather than always having to change everything). Instead, we need to foster a community on campus that welcomes people of diverse interests and backgrounds, not just those interested in STEM.

Grace Garber is a Staff Writer for The Triton.

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