Arts and culture clubs draw fewer members but reflect genuine interest

October 29, 2018 — by Kaitlyn Wang

Two years ago, the Creative Writing Club died out because of low membership.

Similar cases have occurred when attendance at club meetings dwindles to officers and their friends, or when senior officers fail to pass on their club at the end of the year to underclassmen. Besides Creative Writing Club, other arts and culture clubs such as Ukulele Club, Ecoart Club and Urban Dance Club no longer exist.

While academic clubs explore broad subjects, arts and cultural clubs often cater to more niche interests. For instance, Science Club might attract a wider membership compared to Rubik’s Cube Club. But the likelihood of fewer members does not necessarily mean that club commissioners hesitate to approve arts and culture clubs.

“What we’re looking for the most is true passion among the officers, and we tend to see that more in arts and cultural clubs just because it’s people who really really love something,” senior club commissioner Samyu Iyer said. “They found a group that shares that interest and wants to bring it to the school, and that’s what we love to see.”

Iyer sees academic clubs as often “more college application fodder than anything else,” which shows during the club application process.

A slight majority of this year’s clubs are academic clubs. According to the ASB website, there are 14 academic clubs, nine service clubs and 10 arts and culture clubs. No matter what the club’s mission is, however, as long as the officers “truly care about what they’re doing,” it is all right if the club has low membership, Iyer said.

“I actually love it when more niche, unique interests are brought to the school,” Iyer said. “If it benefits a group of students at this school, regardless of how small or how big or who these people are, we want that.”

But clubs that focus on specific interests may experience an on-and-off existence over the years as interest fluctuates.

Because of its dwindling membership, Photography Club did not exist for two years before it was revived in 2017.

According to junior Ritika Kuppam, the Photography Club secretary, meetings consist of photography tutorials and photoshoots for students to practice techniques and tips they learn about in meetings.

Predicting that the club will have around 20 to 25 active members this year, Kuppam remains optimistic about the number of members Photography Club will retain.

Other clubs feel pressure to brainstorm ideas to attract more students.

Juniors Ava Riazat, Neda Riazat and Mitra Mokhlesi are trying to start a Persian Cultural Awareness Club, which will be modeled on the Indian Cultural Awareness Club.

According to Neda, the club plans to have an annual fundraiser for women in Iran. There will also be cultural food and possibly dances.

While the club is still early in the application process, the juniors foresee that there may not be as many members as they would like.

“So far, the big problem we’re facing is how we get people to join, especially people who aren’t Iranian,” Neda said.

To address this issue, the club would have to start with the officers encouraging their friends to attend meetings, Neda said. They also plan to have food at every meeting.

Besides food, volunteering hours and recognition serve as possible incentives for other clubs.

Senior Nirav Adunuthula, who is starting the men’s acapella group En Chord, recognizes that membership may be difficult because “it doesn’t seem like you’re going to get much out of the club unless you enjoy singing.”

According to Adunuthula, “to entice more people,” the club provides chances for volunteer hours — for caroling in the winter and performing in retirement homes in the spring — as well as recognition and positions.

Devoted to a specific interest, the club draws members who are already involved in singing on campus. Most of En Chord’s members are in choir.

“Surprisingly, we had a couple of people join from outside of choir this year,” Adunuthula said. “That’s nice, and what we were hoping for.”

While En Chord has a few members who are not in choir, Noteworthy, the women’s acapella group on campus, recruited many students outside of choir on Club Day. For students who could not do choir this year because of schedule conflicts, the club is a great chance for them to still come sing, co-director Carolyn Ma said.

Even when students enjoy an activity, they may feel hesitant to perform, and chances for recognition do not always help clubs acquire members.

Poetry Club offers opportunities to compete in events, such as the national poetry recitation competition Poetry Out Loud, but few students participate.

“Poetry itself feels like a very personal thing, and it’s hard to share that in front of people,” said Adunuthula, who is also the vice president of Poetry Club. “Poetry Club can do competitions, but I don’t think those will necessarily work. I feel like what Poetry Club should focus on is using poetry as a way to connect with our school community.”

Compared to broad academic subjects, specific activities like poetry and singing appeal to fewer students. While classes enter and leave the school, students in certain grades have stronger interests in some areas than others, so low membership in a club might not necessarily indicate a decline in appreciation for arts and culture.

But the small size of arts and culture clubs could reflect an emphasis on academics, especially STEM subjects, at SHS.

“I definitely feel like math club and science club get more popularity,” Kuppam said. “However, clubs like ours are gaining popularity steadily too, as the school does have incredible arts facilities that help kindle students’ passions for creativity.”

 

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