This article was originally published in print on Feb. 25. Since then, Owen Migdal and Gabriel Misla have been elected as representatives for the College of Fine Arts.
The fine arts are a central part of the culture at the University of Utah. Art departments at the U are known for their talented students, dedicated faculty and overall quality — the dance program is widely considered one of the most prestigious in the country. Still, many fine arts students feel other colleges and programs on campus overshadow them. A 2017 investigation by The Daily Utah Chronicle found that the Performing Arts Building, nearly 100 years old, needs renovations to fix disrepair, upgrade facilities and update security. This year, two students, Owen Migdal and Gabriel Misla, are hoping to advocate for fine arts and represent the needs of students.
The College of Fine Arts elects two representatives for the ASUU assembly and there are currently two candidates running for 2019-20. Though these students come from different backgrounds and are in different areas of study, they expressed similar concerns about the college and goals for ASUU.
Owen Migdal is originally from Middletown, Maryland, and he came to the U to join the ballet program in the School of Dance. Migdal is only a first-year — his campaign slogan is “get fresh ideas from a freshman” — but he has already made progress on an ambitious course of study. Migdal is a double major in ballet and kinesiology with a minor in nutrition. He is also working on a studio-teaching certificate and fulfilling the prerequisites to apply for medical school. Migdal, who participated in politics in high school, wants to represent the College of Fine Arts and fight for the issues facing these students.
Migdal has enjoyed the opportunities offered in the ballet program, but he is concerned that fine arts are often seen as a lower priority. His major goal is to procure exercise equipment for dancers to use before classes and performances. He said, “We don’t have any treadmills, stationary bikes or anything to warm up with.” Access to equipment and physical therapists could reduce students’ risk for injuries. Migdal notes that many student athletes have extensive resources and much more access to valuable equipment. While Migdal, a former athlete, is not against student athletic programs, he points out that dance is directly related to academic study. He wants more funding to help students who “put their bodies on the line for their education.”
Migdal also wants greater student involvement in the fine arts. He says that students in any area of study benefit from participating in or experiencing the fine arts. He wants to join ASUU to encourage more students to use Arts Pass, which provides free or inexpensive arts tickets to students. Migdal even suggested integrating requirements to attend arts events into ASUU programming and HRE curriculum. He said that when students become involved in arts, it “benefit[s] not only them but the school and the culture here.”
Gabriel Misla, the other candidate running to represent the College of Fine Arts, is pursuing a B.A. in film and media arts. Misla originally attended college in Puerto Rico, where he was involved in student government. He later moved to Utah and, after working for several years, decided he wanted to attend the U to pursue his passion of film. Now, Misla wants to “bring the College of Fine Arts to the front at the negotiating table” in ASUU assembly.
In many ways, Misla does not fit the stereotypical image of a student at the U. He is in his mid-30s, is not from Utah originally and attends classes part-time, fitting his school schedule around a full-time job. Misla views these qualities as an asset, not a liability. He hopes to represent nontraditional students, and allow his unique experiences to inform his leadership in ASUU.
Both Migdal and Misa have different majors, backgrounds and ideas. They both, however, share a common goal of bringing more attention and resources to the College of Fine Arts. Migdal observed that both students and faculty members worry that their area of study is overlooked by the university. Misla said, “I hope to represent the interests of the students in my department. The arts will always be relevant, but sometimes they are not the first choice of grants and other opportunities. Let’s change that … I believe I can make a huge difference by representing the College of Fine Arts.”