I have always heard about how well-embraced creative arts are by the UTSG and UTM campuses. This notion has formulated a mental image in my mind of UTSG and UTM creative arts students walking around their respective campuses and having discussions about their ideas and upcoming projects, a scene resembling something like Gustave Courbet’s “The Painter’s Studio.”

Well, at least that’s how they seem compared to the creative arts scene at UTSC. I think I’ve found the source of this problem: a prevalent, self-imposed mentality of prioritizing studies over, well, everything else.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit to adopting this mentality, and yet, due to this way of thinking, UTSC seems to be too busy for the creative arts. I know this all too well since I have made some attempts to lighten up the campus’ creative arts scene to no avail.

First attempt: performing music

I started my artistic endeavour by forming a rock band, putting up stories on UTSC-affiliated Instagram pages calling for anyone who would be interested in joining. I chose this method since the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union charges $20 to put unaffiliated ads on its bulletin boards — plus, people dread random talk with strangers anyway.

Several people responded and auditioned, and the best were chosen for the band. All we had to do now was have a band practice, but lo and behold, midterms came and resignation texts were delivered one by one, citing academic priorities.

Dreams of one day performing in the campus’ meeting place were shattered, and I was so defeated. I quickly adapted to this school-before-cool mentality. Mind you, these ex-members were all a year ahead of me, a first-year student.

Second attempt: making a film

First year passed and monk-like dedication to academics had really got me feeling dull. I thought people learn from their mistakes, but I guess I’m living proof that they don’t.

I went on to embark on another artistic endeavour: this time, a filmmaking project. I filled the director, producer, and screenwriter roles and, through the same Instagram pages, posted ads calling for actors.

I got messages from interested people, interviewed them, and selected the best of the lot for the respective jobs. It’s funny; I was so excited for this project that I didn’t do the standard screen test with the actors. What I did instead was ask them about their acting experience and what their understanding was of the character they wanted to play. 

I think I relieved a lot of anxiety from them when I revealed this during the interview. The best part of it all was that everyone seemed to have as much excitement as I did. Until — you guessed it — midterm season arrived.

There were no resignations; instead, there were a lot of very late responses to filming calls on the group chat. I decided to do a shooting call three weeks after reading week, thinking that things would cool down by then.

I sent a call for shooting, and after days of waiting and realizing things would only become more unlikely from there, I decided to ditch those drama students and instead find others more willing outside of UTSC. I would have still filmed in UTSC, though, since the place looks nice. 

The only problem? COVID-19 happened. What a wonderful world.

Giving up? Nah

Now, any smart aleck could blame me for not organizing this better or embarking on these projects too late in the semester, and I sympathize. 

However, let’s not forget that the desire to either perform rock music or make a film was mutual; I mean, why else would they text me and audition? It can’t just be bad timing. 

From my perspective, UTSC’s culture seems to be mainly centred around business administration and the sciences, which may explain why students may be naturally less inclined toward the creative arts. Ultimately, I suppose that the indifference toward the creative arts pervades the campus to the point where artistic students succumb to that very indifference, causing them to back out of artistic endeavours just when things are picking up steam.

Regardless, I think if it weren’t for COVID-19, I would have tried my hand at filming in UTSC one more time, perhaps working with another batch of UTSC drama students who are more dedicated to their craft. I really like UTSC, despite these shortcomings, and I hope it’ll be more embracing of the creative arts.

I still yearn for that day when I find fellow creative arts folks at UTSC who, though willing to compromise, will not quit when circumstances make it hard for them to actualize their artistic projects.