Behind the Success of the Visual and Performing Arts Culture Common Interest Community

When you exit the elevator onto the 10th floor of Lee Hall, you’ll notice it isn’t just your run-of-the-mill dorm floor. The bulletin board transports you to the middle of Times Square and the doors are adorned with Playbills for every single Broadway musical, ranging from “The Producers” to “Hamilton.” In the lounge is a large black booth that students can use to practice their singing and instruments without disturbing other residents. This floor is the Visual and Performing Arts Culture floor, one of Residence Life’s most popular common-interest communities.

The common-interest communities came to fruition back in the fall of 2015, after the success of the popular Arches program.

Although the Arches program is only available to incoming freshman, the other communities are open to any student. Communities such as Nuestra Casa, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Issues and Sustainability and the two brand new floors, Lasallian Community and Health and Wellness have become popular living choices. Resident assistants are chosen to lead these floors and all of the activities. For the Visual and Performing Arts Culture floors, those RAs are junior Dan Dixon and senior Erica Rebussini.

Both of the RAs committed a lot of their time at the end of the previous semester to recruiting residents to live on their floor. By growing awareness for the floor, it has allowed the community to grow in numbers. The RAs want students to make new friends with those who share similar performing arts talents, whether it is painting, singing, dancing or acting.

“Common-interest communities… give students an even more personalized, specific niche in which they can develop and indulge their skills/talents/things they love,” Rebussini said. “It ultimately reassures you that other people share the same interests as you, but in really diverse ways. You can only become a more diverse musician, writer, poet, actress, performer, etc. by living on our floor — you have 76 other people to help you get there.”

As far as events, the floor is full of activities the RAs are eager to engage their students in. Karaoke nights, a night out at the Cotton Club (a jazz club in Harlem) and other programs that could possibly include Broadway tickets are some that Rebussini is looking forward to.

Dixon, on the other hand, was a member of the Founder’s Bridge mural project the previous semester and wants to do something along the lines of decorating the floor. He recently held an event that students could come and paint, with their paintings being hung up in the lounge afterwards to decorate the space. In the future the floor might actually paint a mural to hang in the lounge on canvas boards.

“The whole goal of the community is to have it be student driven. If they have an idea, they can bring it to us and we can help make it happen,” Dixon said. “There is some talk about a mural, which I’m very excited for.”

Another feature the two rallied for was a practice space for students to sing or play their music in, without bothering other students or causing a commotion. They got something even better— the Whisper Room. The box is a soundproof booth, complete with lights and allows sound outside to be reduced.

“You can find similar rooms on many college campuses. They are great resources for students to use musical instruments, sing, record, and more. We learned about them last year from Dr. Mark Pottinger who is the faculty liaison to the community,” Andrew Weingarten, director of Residence Life, said.

“We always need to consider residence hall safety, so our room only reduces sound by 50%, is positioned so that you can see and hear the fire alarm and is used under the supervision of Residence Life staff who have the key,” Weingarten said.

Residents have been enjoying the floor already, with all of the events planned and the communal feeling already starting up. The RAs couldn’t be happier, since it was their goal all along. Both of them have been planning their ideas and floor themes for a while after being chosen to be in charge of the program.

Rebussini has been working in the Performing Arts department since her freshman year and after already leading the Arches program last year, was ready to lead another community floor. Dixon was chosen to be in Lee Hall after painting on the mural project and speaking to one of the previous RAs for the community. They want every resident, no matter their artistic background, to come together and have a good time in the dorm building and during the activities.

“Painting together has been something fun and relaxing with one another… everyone has been really nice and welcoming and hanging out with each other, more so than non-communal floors,” Marisa Robbins, a sophomore resident, said.

Even after the community only being active starting a few years prior, it is obvious that it is one of the biggest and a popular choice among the communities. The students have enjoyed it in the past, and by word of mouth, more students will be able to enjoy it for this school year.

“I am very excited about this community. It is currently the largest of our six Common Interest Communities, and much of that is due to the recruitment efforts of RAs Erica and Dan who started planning and recruiting residents last spring. They have a lot of wonderful ideas and programs planned. It is going to be a great year,” Weingarten said.