Given Grinnell’s location 50 miles from an urban center, we are lucky to have ample opportunities to see movies and attend concerts. Both the SGA Films and Concerts committees work tirelessly to give the rest of us entertaining weekend events
But amidst the recent scuffle over budget allocations, we have yet to ask whether each group is serving the campus effectively. When students must choose between a Friday night of hanging out with friends or attending a concert by an unknown band, usually the concert will be forgotten. The same goes for the umpteen weekend film screenings. Sure, we have a lot of options, but rarely do we ask ourselves, “How much is too much? What do we value more: quantity or quality?”
For a majority of events, SGA Films and Concerts cater to a very small group, often doing so far more than is necessary. Last weekend, SGA Films showed three movies on campus a combined 11 times, and shows another movie twice on Wednesdays. Go to any of these events, and you’ll typically find a smattering of students. Crowds are exceptions, not the rule.
The same trend applies to concerts. A typical weekend brings bands foreign to even the most obsessed reader of indie blogs, and attendance usually tops out at a few dozen.
At some point, these committees should ask themselves whether the approach of “throwing everything at the wall and hoping something sticks” is the optimal one. If the goal is to reach and interest as many students as possible, it might be just as productive to focus on bringing bands that a higher percentage of students recognize. They need a reason not to dismiss the event as “just another film” or “just another concert.”
In the past, the events with the highest student interest have generally been the more expensive ones that target the masses:
Last year’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo concert packed Herrick Chapel, and student interest was evident long after the show ended. Even now, reference the show to someone in attendance, and they’re quick to reminisce about just how much they enjoyed it.
SGA Films might not be able to pack Harris Theater on weekends, but when it rented out The Strand to show Quantum of Solace, student demand far exceeded supply, and the tickets were gone in a matter of minutes.
If we seek an active and involved community, we first have to give people reasons to be active and involved. But this is rarely completed through events that will inevitably attract small crowds.
By acknowledging that big names attract more students, committees can better determine how to allocate their budgets. If we assume that most students only attend a few events a year, let’s make those events worthwhile.