For many students, dropping $200 a month on shoes just isn’t in the budget. But for those in OU's College of Fine Arts, expenses like these are often part of getting a degree.
Dance clothes, art supplies or tuning for musical instruments are just some of the extra expenses fine arts students face in a semester. During a crisis, these items can be difficult to afford, let alone essentials like rent — an issue the College of Fine Arts hopes to remedy with a newly created emergency fund it will bring to life this semester.
The fund is meant to provide transportation during a family emergency, an extra month of rent or supplies to support fine arts students during short-term crises, said Mary Margaret Holt, dean of the fine arts college, in an email.
“Especially when you're a college student, no matter what your major is, everybody is pretty strapped financially,” said Elena Damiani, a ballet performance senior. “It's a nice way (for students) to know that if something awful happens ... people are there to have their backs if needed.”
David Barocio, director of development for the College of Fine Arts, has been developing the emergency fund since spring 2019. Campaigning for the fund is ongoing, but the college has currently raised around $25,000 from alumni and other supporters, he said.
“As the rising costs of college go higher and higher and higher ... we want to make sure that (students) are able to achieve what they want to achieve without having any extra burden on them,” Barocio said.
Holt said she hopes the money will support students in times of crisis by enabling them to travel home to be with their families who might live far away. She said the College of Fine Arts has a high average of out-of-state students, who pay non-resident tuition and fees amounting to $45 per credit hour.
But tuition and fees are not the only expenses fine arts students have to worry about. The fund aims to help with instrument upkeep and supplies so students can keep performing, making music or creating art in an emergency.
Emily Lofton goes through about two pairs of pointe shoes a month for her ballet pedagogy studies. But the senior said these shoes cost around $80 to $100 a pair, which can add up to hundreds of dollars over a semester.
Supplies like these are not just for show — they are essential for dance students to stay safe and maintain their technique.
“You can end up injuring yourself if you're dancing on older shoes ... if they’re not strong enough,” Damiani said.
Holding down a job during the semester can also be a challenge, Damiani said.
“Being a dancer, you also have to take care of yourself. You have to sleep at some point,” Lofton said. “So if you're not really going to work until, you know, midnight or 1 in the morning, then you're kind of out of options at a certain point.”
Visual arts majors can also have a range of expenses, depending on their area of study, said Rachel Davis, a visual arts senior with an emphasis in ceramics and sculpture. Besides textbooks, visual arts majors might purchase clay, plaster, ink, paper, paints and more throughout a semester.
“I do know people who have had some family illness, and they've had to travel a lot,” Davis said. “And I think being able to cover that expense is really helpful when they're having to worry about, emotionally, what's going on and also having to be away from work and school.”
Damiani was one of the first students to hear about the emergency fund when it was discussed at a monthly meeting for the Student Advisory Council in the College of Fine Arts. She said Holt brought up the example of a student whose grandmother, who had been paying for her education, had suddenly passed away. The college gathered some money for the student and helped her finance her education.
“That was kind of a situation where they were like, ‘Hey, this could totally help out other college students in the College of Fine Arts,’” Damiani said.
The College of Fine Arts plans to make the emergency fund available starting sometime this spring, Barocio said. Once the college has established criteria for funding, there will be a simple application process for students to apply, Holt said.
Although this fund is targeted at College of Fine Arts students, emergency funds could be helpful for many colleges, Holt said.