The University has a long history of creating structures for communities that bring together people based on specific interests, such as dance, a cappella, or visual arts. There are student artists from all different fields who push the limits of creative imagination and create work worthy of being displayed on world-renowned platforms. But what would happen if these different groups crossed paths? What kind of community, conversations, and creations could emerge from such an environment?
The Edwards Collective is a residential community that aims to answer this question by bringing together 35 students with a demonstrated interest in arts and humanities. Student choreographers, visual artists, musicians, writers, and actors live together in Edwards Hall, sharing a common lounge, as well as ideas and inspiration.
Through the collective, students have been able to propose trips to the Metropolitan Opera, off-Broadway plays, art gallery openings, concerts, dance shows, exhibitions, and other events with all costs covered by the University. This way, students are encouraged to explore other art and media outside of their usual preferences. Members of the collective also meet over breakfast on Fridays, weekly dinners, and knitting nights, and are able to participate in retreats during fall and spring breaks.
Current member Anna Kimmel ’18 pointed out that although other groups on campus spend time together over meals, while studying, or at campus events, no other group — apart from those in the Pink House — actually lives together. As most Princeton students experience in their freshman year, “’zee groups” often become good friends just by living together. Yet more than simply living in the same area, the Edwards Collective is designed for students who share mutual interests, which allows for productive and inspiring conversations.
According to another Edwards Collective resident, Matt Wie ’17, his favorite thing about the collective is being in the same dorm as people who appreciate the arts and are always ready to talk about them. He also mentioned the Edwards music studio as a great benefit.
“This emphasis on community means that people also feel comfortable being their weirdest, geekiest, most earnest selves, which I love and think we could use more of at Princeton,” current member Claire Ashmead ’17 explained. She noted how members have organized events like drawing night and helped each other make costumes for Halloween.
As Kimmel and Ashmead described, gatherings such as the Friday morning breakfasts at Edwards and trips to outside performances allow for “rigorous, diverse, probing, respectful, and ultimately unpredictable conversations.” While Kimmel’s art form is dance, she said that the wealth of information she has gleaned from visual artists, actors, vocalists, costume designers, and poets has allowed her to better understand her own medium.
As far as arts and humanities excursions go, Ashmead commented, “The fact that my neighbor is crazy about Jane Austen means that I got to attend a staged version of Pride and Prejudice in October, that I’m obsessed with Shakespeare meant we got to go to The Cycle of Kings at the BAM last spring, and so on.”
However, as highlighted by Wie, having a fulfilling experience in the collective is contingent upon how active you are. As almost all rooms are singles in Edwards, you could lock yourself in your room and not get to meet people, especially in the first year in the collective, Wie noted. As a result, he added that members benefit from the opportunities that the collective provides based on how willing they are to actively engage in the activities.
Although much of the campus population may not know that it exists, for the small group of people who live with fellow artists, Edwards is a huge part of their Princeton experience.
Any rising sophomore from Mathey College and upperclassmen from any college can apply to Edwards. Although it requires its members to have at least a Block-95 meal plan, it is possible for upperclassmen to be both in an eating club and Edwards Collective as long as they have a shared meal plan.