"The ability to do work that artistically and academically inspires me, and learning that the two are not mutually exclusive, is so classic Pomona."
When theatre major Arielle Brown arrived at Pomona, she sought out theatre concerned with social justice, theatre with a cause. When she didn't find exactly what she was looking for, she set out to create it with the help of faculty and her peers.
"It was exciting to know that regardless of what I wanted to do, that I was going to be supported in all these endeavors," says Arielle, who had done professional theatre in her native Atlanta. "Pomona is a place where you can really form your education if you're motivated to do so."
In the spring of her freshman year, Arielle organized a student reading of Black feminist Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf." Impressed with the results, Arielle's advisors in the Theatre Department worked with her to put on a full student production, eventually earning an invite to perform at an NAACP function in San Francisco. "That's not an isolated event where faculty are listening to students," she says. "It happens often."
Arielle says the opportunities available to her have been mind-boggling. The summer after her freshman year, Arielle got a grant through Pomona's Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) to work on a documentary on East African art with Los Angeles actors and prominent African artists. With the blessing of the Theatre Department, she also received a fellowship with Danny Glover's Robey Theatre Company in Los Angeles, where she penned a 60-page play that she hopes to present at the National Black Theatre Festival.
"The ability to do work that artistically and academically inspires me, and learning that the two are not mutually exclusive, is so classic Pomona," she says. "I know that this wouldn't have been possible anywhere else."
It's that mix of art and academia that first drove Brown to choose Pomona over a traditional theatre conservatory. "I don't want to be an artist that's just manufactured," she says. "Pomona has given me a more holistic view of the world and what it means."
On her first visit to Claremont, she also came to appreciate Pomona's atmosphere and the strong sense of community on campus. "It just seemed like a place where all of the resources were there to make and form my own education, and I really appreciated that."
Now entering her junior year, Arielle plans to take her art even further as she spends a semester in Senegal, where she hopes to study Senegalese dance-but not before spending a summer organizing theatre workshops for middle school students back home in Atlanta, a project she's been working on with the Pomona Theatre Department and the on-campus Draper Center for Community Partnerships.
"In the real world, the work you want to see doesn't just present itself, you have to go out and create it," Arielle says. "Pomona is preparing me for that in a very real and tangible way."