When most people walk through Ezra Stiles College, they see peanut brittle. Brady Weeks ’04 sees a birth canal.
“What do you think of when you look at the gym?” he asked. “It’s extremely phallic.”
Inspired by both the uterine design of the path between Morse and Stiles Colleges and the large structure of the gym, Brady designed “Grow,” a series of 1-foot blown-glass spheres with the use of a grant from the Ezra Stiles Sudler Fund.
Much of the Stiles community, however, may never see Weeks’ work. Although he completed the project last semester, drilling rules ultimately prevented Weeks from displaying his work along “Jock Walk” as he had planned. And although HE was set to begin a new project for Stiles — a sculpture of neon glass strands — he was denied funding from the Council of Masters, which makes the decisions on each Sudler Fund proposal.
Weeks was not the only student denied funding by the Sudler system. Many students applications were denied this spring, leaving some wondering why.
Each semester, Sudler funds are granted to students through their colleges for projects in the performing or fine arts. The funds are meant to support endeavors relating specifically to the residential college. In past, Weeks said, it seemed that it was easier to get funding.
“Sudler is sort of notoriously known as a suck fund,” Weeks said. “People have gotten money to display bags of garbage.”
Weeks’ elaborate glass sculptures were significantly more complex than bags of garbage. The display was a depiction of a cell in the process of division.
“It’s a response to the geometry of Morse and Stiles,” Weeks said. “The name ‘Grow’ comes from the growth of a cell, or the growth of an idea.”
Ezra Stiles Master Paul Fry said that he supported both of Weeks’ attempts at Sudler funding.
“I recommended him very strongly, but it’s up to the committee to make a decision,” Fry said. “I helped get him funding for his first project, and I strongly supported his second project.”
Weeks said he spent over $400 of his own money constructing the project at a glass workshop in Wallingford and has little hope for reimbursement.
Similarly, Helen Liu ’02 applied for Sudler funding from Morse last year to start Exposure, a photography magazine, but was denied.
“They had two major objections, that Sudler doesn’t give to publications, and that it wasn’t a college-based project. But I think a lot of it has to do with whether the master likes you,” Liu said. “If I had been the master’s favorite student, I would have gotten the money.”
The fund aims to support residential college-specific efforts. Although most of the founders of Exposure were in Morse, their product was not Morse-specific.
In October 2000, Pat Dallai, an executive assistant for Sudler’s decision committee, told the Yale Daily News that all noncollege-specific publications are considered as a group. If they are approved, she said, they become eligible to receive only leftover money from the first wave of college-specific funding.
In the mean time, groups that are clearly aimed at Yale College as a whole have had no problem receiving funds.
Elaine Fefferman ’04, a member of the Yale College Composers’ Group said that they used Sudler funds to “copy programs and musical scores.”
“We receive Morse funding, but most of the people in the group are actually from Pierson,” Feffernan said. “Morse has been really wonderful about it.”
Morse Master Frank Keil, however, reiterated that the college aims to fund Morse-specific projects.
“We only fund groups with a strong representation of Morsels,” he said.
Liu also said that the Sudler Committee likes to fund performing arts projects.
Still others asserted that it is the creativity of the idea, rather than genre or politics, that ultimately wins money for a student.
Ming Thompson ’04 was awarded Sudler funding by Silliman College to design clothing based on her friends in Silliman.
“I wanted to do something that would involve lots of people in Silliman,” Thompson said. “I think they were looking for something a little different. A lot of people do painting, so that’s why I did this.”
Silliman Master Judith Krauss said that an important reason more people were denied Sudler funding this spring was that there were simply more applicants. She said the Silliman Master’s Office received 25 to 28 applications for Sudler funding.
These Sudler fund obstacles may keep some artists from completing their projects or presenting their work to their residential college communities.
Weeks is not one of them.
“This was my present to Stiles,” Weeks said. “I kind of made this for them, to say, ‘I still love all of you guys.'”
Weeks’ original project is now being displayed at Funktion Cafe on Crown Street. Although Weeks didn’t sell his art to the cafe, he agreed to let it be displayed there under the condition that all Stiles students receive half-price drinks.
And, despite the denial, Weeks was still eager to create something that could include all students in the college. Because Funktion Cafe only admits those over 21, he also designed a 7-foot plastic sphere to be displayed in the Stiles courtyard. The blue kinetic sculpture is titled “The Other Winter Ball.”
“It’s supposed to get people to think about the space,” Weeks said. “I want people to play with it and throw it around.”
Starting Friday, the ball, which is too large to fit through any gate, will be locked in the courtyard. Weeks is confident that no one will be injured.
“I want it to be there for like a week,” Weeks said. “I want it to be something that just comes and goes.”
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