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Roble Arts Gym reopens after long COVID-19 hiatus

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The Roble Arts Gym, a creative space for students on campus, has invited students to come back to the space, as COVID-19 restrictions loosen on campus.

Stepping into the gym, students are welcomed by their peers at the front desk. The goal of the space, according to Claudia Dorn, manager of resources and community at the Office of the Vice President for the Arts, is to promote a peer-to-peer organization and make the arts gym fully student-run.

With everything in the gym designed to ensure social distancing, students can enter a safe place for exploration and experimentation, engage in new creative skills and find friends in the community.

At the front of the arts gym is the messy arts space, also known as the “heart of the arts gym,” an area created when the gym opened in 2016 due to high demand by students who needed access to painting studios on campus. It has since become a space adaptable to any kind of hands-on messiness that students want to explore.

“The messy art space is a hands-on creative space for painting, drawing and modeling,” Dorn said. “This includes anything you need for class, for a private project or just to experiment with subjects that you haven’t done before.”

Another unique feature of the messy arts space is that it supplies many tools for student artists, ranging from acrylic paint to canvases — all provided by the gym free of charge.

“If you haven’t done any painting before and you want to try it, we are the space to do it,” Dorn said. “We don’t judge — we just want people to come in and enjoy [themselves], find the creative community, talk with people and engage with the arts and each other.”

At the back of the gym is a dance studio — but not any ordinary dance studio. This multi-use area can be transformed into a meeting room, presentation room and screening room. The studio is equipped with a full light and sound system, projector, screen and movable mirrors.

“I like to think of this space as kind of like a multi-studio. Pretty much any creative take you have, any creative urge you want to explore,” said Tyler Eaglebabel Brooks, a student engagement associate. “This is a very flexible space that has a lot of capacity for all of those things and can easily adjust to students’ needs.”

Next to the dance studio, the music room serves as a rehearsal space, providing students with access to instruments such as an electric keyboard, drum kit and guitar. There is also a vocal recording booth where students can record podcasts, sing or bring in smaller instruments to use in recordings.

Creativity takes the front seat with 3D printing in the gym. Here, users can rapidly test new ideas and designs any time they want. As with other items in the gym, the staff are always there to get students up to speed.

“Now that I’m able to mess around with the 3D printer on my own, I’ve gotten a ton more experience with CAD software,” said Julian Quevedo, an undergraduate physics major who regularly uses the gym. “I’m working on some designs for my summer research, and the art gym has allowed me to quickly prototype new ideas without boundaries.”

One of the most exciting parts of the gym is the virtual reality room. The Roble Arts Gym teamed up with a student group, Stanford XR, to bring Virtual Reality to students who had not experienced it. Stanford XR has office hours in the Gym’s VR space, where students can learn the process of setting up and playing VR games.

“Stanford XR creates game nights as a playful approach to virtual reality,” Dorn said. “It’s fine if anybody wants to do it for their stress relief — which is great. We love it, other students might come and say they can use it for their studies and really want to explore it more — that is great as well. We welcome all.”

In the fall when all undergraduate students are expected to be back on campus, Brooks said the gym is looking forward to having in-person student workshops. Three to four times each quarter, students hold these workshops, including painting, henna tattoos, dancing and music, allowing them to share their creative passions with others.

Asked how the Roble Arts Gym contributes to Stanford and its values, Brooks said, “Stanford really walks the walk in terms of being an interdisciplinary school. Similar in values, the Roble Arts Gym is an interdisciplinary space and that is the air in this room.”

The gym, she added, “has the power to be a space that is the center of the student arts community at Stanford.”

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Mary Lee is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily's Summer Journalism Workshop.