Some University students might exclusively associate Greek Life with the keg-induced madness that becomes Hill St. every football Saturday. What you may not be aware of, though, is a vibrant (albeit quieter) side to the Greek system that focuses on the spreading and sharing of what its members love: art.
Daily Arts explores Alpha Rho Chi and Kappa Kappa Psi — two co-ed, professional, arts-focused fraternities on campus doing just that.
Though Alpha Rho Chi and Kappa Kappa Psi both lack an official frat house with bawdy parties, their presence is still very visible in the Greek scene. Through their respective organizations, architectural and musical outreach stays alive on campus, adding another layer of color to the Ann Arbor’s artistic — and Greek — community.
Alpha Rho Chi, founded in 1914 by two architecture societies from the Universities of Michigan and Illinois, is a nationwide fraternity for those interested in architecture and the “allied arts,” which include related design fields like industrial engineering and civil engineering.
“What we aim to do is create and foster both a social and professional relationship and community with students within the school and within the University setting,” said Jordan Buckner, president of Alpha Rho Chi. “We work with students and the University to put on programs and events that extend the architectural experience outside of the classroom.”
Through last week’s program, called “Dinosaurs on the Diag,” Alpha Rho Chi extended the architectural experience all the way from the North Campus classroom to Central Campus. Large wooden dinosaurs on the Diag transformed the normally monotonous, open area into a dynamic Jurassic land. The various dinosaur structures were completely designed and constructed by architecture students.
“One thing that we are interested in … is gaining exposure to people, especially on Central Campus, about architecture and some of the other design fields that they don’t normally have exposure to,” Buckner said. “So one of the goals of the ‘Dinosaurs on the Diag’ program is to create a space or environment and a re-envisioning of the Central Campus Diag space to get people to look at it differently.
“The great thing about architecture, too, is that it’s not just about designing buildings,” he said. “It’s designing spaces, spaces that can be formative and kind of emotional for people too. We get to build something with our hands, we get to design it with our hands and everything we do is kind of our own creative process.”
Alpha Rho Chi uses architecture as a means of outreach in other ways, too. This past summer, the fraternity participated in the building of new playgrounds for a Detroit elementary school by helping plan and create the structures. In October, the group is taking part in a Michigan Habitat for Humanity build.
Although Buckner said the fraternity strives to bring its art to others who aren’t familiar with it, he also feels that Alpha Rho Chi is important because of the relationships it fosters between its members.
“(Alpha Rho Chi) provides a catalyst to form strong friendships and relationships to people with the same interests as me,” Buckner said, “connections that will not only last though college, but also throughout the rest of my life.”
Fraternity Kappa Kappa Psi and sister sorority Tau Beta Sigma help out any and all band organizations — University band, campus band, marching band, etc. — with a focus on expanding musicianship across campus.
“We create a brotherhood within the band of people, people who want to service the band … and we are also here to create a better social environment for people in the band,” said Sierra Cain, president of Kappa Kappa Psi. Cain plays trombone in the Marching Band.
Members of Kappa Kappa Psi act as souped-up cheerleaders for music organizations on campus. Part of the fraternity’s purpose stems from the hope that their efforts will bring more awareness of student musicians’ presence and, in turn, benefit everyone.
“Music is one of those things that’s all-encompassing,” said Alexandra Genia, vice president of Kappa Kappa Psi and trombonist in the marching band. “It sounds really cheesy to say it’s a language that everybody understands, but it’s true. So by servicing the different band organizations on campus, we are allowing those bands to put forth their best effort in order to create this music and pass it off to other people.
“For example, the School of Music’s various ensembles actually have free concerts that you can basically walk into and watch,” Genia added. “And I kid you not, some of this music is incredibly beautiful, it’s absolutely wonderful … It’s one of those great college experiences that you can only get by showing up.”
Recently, the fraternity bought new televisions for Revelli Hall, the band headquarters on Hoover Street.
“Instead of getting this terrible presentation on a crappy TV, now things look a little slicker,” Genia said.
The fraternity aids in band recruitment and holds smaller-scale morale-boosters to keep student musicians happy, including an annual ice cream social for the marching band. Cain also explained that when things start to get stressful, like during long rehearsals in the rain, it’s always members of Kappa Kappa Psi keeping people positive and upbeat.
Kappa Kappa Psi is interested in extending its musical outreach beyond the University. Last year, the group started the Musical Outreach Program, which works with different high school bands in the Ann Arbor community. The fraternity hopes the program will broaden to include schools in Ypsilanti and eventually across Michigan.
Cain said the group also tries to bring music to those who aren’t normally exposed to it, and every year it goes caroling to senior citizen homes.