Last week, the University Honors Scholars Class of 2016 presented their various talents in a student-driven performance they called “The Artistic Experience.” 

The University Honors Scholars program is one of the divisions of the Honors College. 

Usually, about 22 new students enter each year, receiving an impressive scholarship in return for meeting certain requirements, such as taking extra honors classes and writing a thesis before graduating. 

The show took place Thursday and Friday in the Campus Center Building, in a rehearsal and performance space known as the “Black Box.” 

The program featured two original short films and performances of songs and poems, some written by the students themselves. 

The 21 students in the class spent much of the spring semester preparing for the event. The performance was the final project for a class called Artistic Experience. 

The class lasted two semesters and was taught by Patrick Cronin, an actor and faculty member with the Division of Theatre and Dance. In the past, Cronin has only taught the first semester, but this year he tackled both. 

All students participated in some way, whether by designing the printed program, running the lights and sound, or performing multiple pieces. Many of them have been spending their time taking overload classes, lining up research opportunities and stressing over classes like Organic Chemistry, but that does not mean that they have no creative interests or talents. 

Woodson Carpenter, who is studying management with a concentration in legal studies, sang and played piano for an original song, performed spoken word poetry, and starred in another student’s short film. 

“I love performing music, so I knew I had to contribute in that way. I also had the opportunity to perform with two of my classmates which was definitely a strong incentive to participate as much as I did,” said Carpenter. 

The classroom atmosphere for Artistic Experience has been one of intimate friendship and mutual learning. 

Cronin has influenced many of the students academically and personally, and he urged them during the second semester to participate in creating their own art. 

“Pat [Cronin] constantly emphasized the importance of recognizing what we as individuals bring to art. Whether we are ‘receiving’ or ‘delivering’ the art, we have to know what in us makes us feel what we do and address it accordingly. I’ve considered this idea a great deal, and it has encouraged me to allow myself to open up as I approach art.”

Cronin and the students also offered gratitude to Tim Altonen, a graduate student and filmmaker, for his advice and support throughout the project. 

A small audience, mostly of family members and close friends, attended the show each night. 

A special appearance was made by the dean of the Honors College, Dr. Rebecca Pyles, who just completed her last year as dean before retiring. 

Attendees were encouraged to make donations to Bucky’s Food Pantry, an organization that helps supply food to ETSU students, faculty, and staff who are struggling to make ends meet. 

Cronin plans to continue the project in next year’s class with the rising sophomores. 

For the Class of 2016, the event made an already close group feel like family. 

“They are my brothers and sisters,” said Carpenter. “They are a ridiculously talented group of people and this was a wonderful exhibition of their gifts. Each of us is beautifully broken. We are all misfits. We know it, and we find solidarity in that. That’s why the Artistic Experience worked. That’s why we work. I am incredibly thankful for their presence in my life.”