Arts on the Rise

Arts on the Rise is one of three Community Catalyst Houses at Stetson this year. Residents at the home on University Avenue in DeLand include, from left: Kevin Reynolds, Sarah Hargest, Colette Cacciola and Geraldine Diaz. At far right is Annlyn Harvey, Stetson’s Residential Life coordinator.

Kevin Reynolds, a junior studio art and digital art double major, loves Norwegian death metal. So, it’s no surprise when he confesses that he is “usually the noisemaker” at Arts on the Rise, one of three Community Catalyst Houses operating on Stetson’s historic campus in DeLand for the 2017-2018 academic year.

“I live over here,” Reynolds says, gesturing to the west side of the converted single-family home on University Avenue, where he lives with three other Stetson arts students.

When he wants to relax by listening to some music, “what you’ll usually hear is Norwegian death metal,” he says. “I’m very metal and punk and hard rock. It’s an interesting challenge not bothering them too much.”

But Reynolds and his housemates indeed hope to “bother” each other in another way – that is, they hope to inspire and stimulate their artistic muses. And they hope to “bother” the Stetson community at large by stimulating a greater presence and appreciation for the arts on campus – as well as in the city of DeLand.

Now in its second year at Stetson, the Community Catalyst House project brings together students with a common interest who live under one roof for the academic year. Along with Arts on the Rise, this year’s catalyst houses include Multilingual Living (with five residents) and Sustaining Green Living, the only house to carry over from the 2016-2017 school year (six residents).

The goal is “to provide a living and learning environment outside of the classroom,” according to Annlyn Harvey, Stetson’s Residential Life coordinator. “By just getting to live with and engage with people who have similar interests, you can grow in fellowship and build community and learn from one another,” she says.

Also, each catalyst house will create a yearlong project designed to “engage not only the Stetson community but reach out to the DeLand community as well, since we do have such a close partnership and relationship with the city,” Harvey adds, also noting the entire catalyst house program will be an opportunity “to create something bigger than themselves.”

Along with Reynolds, a Cuban-American from Miami, Arts on the Rise includes three other 20-year-old juniors: Sarah Hargest, a theater and studio art double major from Cape Cora, Florida; Geraldine Diaz, a studio art major from Venezuela; and Colette Cacciola, a history major and art minor from Punta Gorda, Florida.

All four students are members of the Kappa Pi International Art Honor Society, whose Stetson chapter was founded in 2016 by Hargest and Diaz.

The seeds of Arts on the Rise were planted by Nathan Wolek, Ph.D., chair of Creative Arts and associate professor of digital arts and music technology. He proposed the idea for an arts-oriented catalyst house to Hargest, then-president of Kappa Pi. Krista Franco, M.F.A., assistant professor of Theatre Arts at Stetson, is the house’s faculty adviser.

Catalyst house proposals were accepted in early 2017 by Stetson’s Department of Residential Living and Learning, and student applications were taken in the spring soon after Arts on the Rise and the other houses were approved.

Members of Arts on the Rise are hoping to create greater for the arts on campus, along with having some fun. From left are Colette Cacciola, Geraldine Diaz, Sarah Hargest and Kevin Reynolds.

“I’m hoping for constant artistic stimulation,” Reynolds says. “Art isn’t so much something you do – you know, you wake up, you get ready for work, you go to work at 9 o’clock and then you’re done. You’re never really done with art. It’s like a lifestyle almost. You can either live in a house with artistic people who are going to hang things up that are going to change your perspective, or live with a bunch of computer science types who are very 9-to-5 oriented.”

Cacciola, who plays flute, piccolo and sax and professes a love for ’80s music, smilingly points out that Reynolds’ metal tastes “might be annoying, but everyone knows something that you don’t know, and you should learn from them. Even if I don’t like hard rock and metal, maybe I can learn to appreciate it.”

“This an opportunity to be inspired by other people, to have other perspectives on art,” Diaz says. “We all do different things. We’re very different from each other, yet we can learn from that. We can apply that to our own art. And they’re pretty cool people.”

Each agrees that Arts on the Rise is, in the words of Reynolds, “not a Kappa Pi house.” But all four envision their catalyst house as serving at least one function similar to the honor society: raising the profile of the arts on campus.

“At the beginning of freshman year, Sarah and I saw the lack of an art club or something like that,” Diaz says. “We were like, ‘We don’t have that much support; we don’t have that much of a presence here – we should do something about it.’ We may not be as big as the music school or law school, but we’re also important.”

While the house does not have an open-door policy, Reynolds believes it may serve as “a pipeline to the artistic community.” He notes the case of a fellow digital arts student who arrived on campus last semester not knowing anyone. Yet, visits to the art house, at Reynolds’ invitation, has helped him connect to other art students – and has gained him exposure for his own 3-D psychedelic artwork.

In addition, the foursome hopes the presence of Arts on the Rise will help them challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about art majors.

As Hargest comments: “Around campus, people are like ‘You’re an art major – what are you going to do? Do you have a backup plan?’ People will tell me ‘That sounds so fun,’ like you’re just playing. Which it is, but it isn’t –  it’s also work. There are artists in the crevices everywhere. By there being a house present, a physical place, it raises up the fact that artists are here.”

“The creation of this house is the personification of the idea of unity,” Cacciola concludes. “It’s proof that the arts are prevalent on campus and are rising.”

– Rick de Yampert