UNIVERSITY OF SAN DIEGO / Spring 2009
[underground]
Secret Gardens
Student artists get together to collaborate, critique and showcase one another’s work
by Stefanie Wray

A healthy dose of rebellion has blossomed among student artists on campus in the past few years. Three distinct groups epitomize this artistic mini-movement, encompassing various genres, defying labels and encouraging the development of questioning minds.

Emerging from the underbelly of Camino Hall, an undergraduate group calling themselves The Basement Society is showcasing original paintings, photography and sculptures, often without professorial oversight. Their work is strongly affected by social injustices, tending to employ a heavy dose of irony in wry pieces such as a Louis Vuitton purse on a pedestal in front of Aromas. A recent meeting with controversial Tijuana artist Marcos “Erre” Ramirez —well known for his trenchant observations of border culture — provided some provocative influence on their artistic points of view.

The Basement Society strives to “open doors for students, challenge their views and motivate [one another].” Group founder and visual arts major Tatiana Ortiz-Rubio ‘09 explains their raison d’être: “The continual showing of our work is not only essential for our artistic education, but also for the education of the community.”

Back above ground, Students For Free Culture are challenging the university to hold itself to the highest standards of integrity. Members strive to educate students, faculty and administration with collaborative shows that incorporate visual arts, live and recorded music, creative writing and film. In addition to a passion for promoting recycling and opposing censorship, the group is dedicated to overturning what it considers unjust intellectual property laws. USD’s chapter of this national organization was founded two years ago by senior Sam Woolley: “What free culture is about is art being free and open to everyone, as opposed to being commodified. Art for art’s sake.”

The undergraduates who make up the Writers’ Club are devoted to collaboration; they rely upon their peers’ critiques and guidance to strengthen their skills and grow in their craft. Though the university offers the prestigious Cropper Creative Writing Series with guest lectures and workshops, the informal, all-inclusive environment of the Writers’ Club fills a niche by inspiring and encouraging students’ creative expression through poetry, short stories, novels, flash fiction, diary entries and other free-flowing literary ventures.

“As a freshman I was totally bewildered,” recalls junior Joseph Carothers. “I felt like there was nothing here for people who just enjoy writing. When looking for art, I had to go down to a secret door under the castle. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to get the Writers’ Club going.”

As clubs like these emerge from the underground, there’s a growing awareness among students that they are surrounded by an outpouring of artistic talent, and are part of a culture devoted to the joys of creating collaborative artwork.