Cultural enrichment fund connects students with art

Photo by Schedule of Student Charges

Danielle Meadows

Theatre Department Coordinator Steven Williams arrived at UNO in 1995. Students paid $12 for tickets to performances then, only making up 20 percent of the audience.

A little more than two decades later, this number is up to 52 per-cent.

The rise is due to the implementation of the cultural enrichment fee, which started as an idea in Williams’ head—born through a growing frustration with low attendance rates at theater performances. Striving to get more students going to cultural events on campus, Williams spent time contemplating how he could make this a reality.

“I started looking at fees across campus that organizations like athletics were collecting,” Williams said. “I thought to myself, what if students were charged a flat fee when registering for courses that allowed them to get in to all theater, music and art gallery presentations for free?”

This thought expanded into meetings with former CFAM Dean Gail Baker. Williams and Baker had many discussions about what this fee would look like for students. The pair came up with the cultural enrichment fee, charging each UNO student a minimum amount (less than original student ticket prices) for access into any cultural event on campus just by showing a Mav-Card.

“Once we finally got settled on what we thought it could be, Dean Baker championed it and went through the entire university system,” Williams said. “I don’t think there were any strongholds at all—it was full of support.”

Money from this fee helps to offset the missing revenue from student ticket sales. The fee also helps to generate additional cultural opportunities on campus. Events include visiting artists from around the world, live mu-sic, theater performances and readings from writers. There is something new to be seen every month.

Williams is proud of this fee as it allows all UNO students the opportunity to take part in and view a variety of enriching events on campus.

“I think we need more arts in our society than we have now,” Williams said. “I think it absolutely has its own place—it should be treated as equal on every campus.”

Theater major Trey Nielsen said the arts deserve just as much recognition as athletics because those involved in an on-stage production do just as much work—people just don’t see what’s behind the scenes.

“In the span of a month or two, we work our butts off with rehearsals almost every day of the week, building sets and balancing classes within that,” Nielsen said. As an actor, Nielsen has noticed a lot of benefits that come from both being in the audience and being on stage. He said theater teaches culture and communication.

“When people come see these shows, they can relate to what’s happening on stage,” Nielsen said. “It becomes super cathartic to people. It’s the art that spans generations.”

A few of the many upcoming arts events include a piano recital by guest artist Jason Kwak and three unique exhibits in the UNO art gallery—free with a MavCard, all thanks to the cultural enrichment fee.