Gonzaga Arts Draws Xander Claypool

April 30, 2020
Gonzaga News Service | Video by Harry Smith ('21)

SPOKANE, Wash. — A focus on developing the whole person is a keystone of Jesuit education, and Gonzaga University affirmed the connection between creativity and problem-solving when it unveiled the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center last April. The facility and Gonzaga’s faculty have become a magnet for talented arts students such as Xander Claypool.

A junior theatre arts major from Aurora, Colorado, with a concentration in design, technology, and management, Claypool aims to become a professional designer for live production work involving scenic and lighting design.

“Creativity has driven me my entire life,” says Claypool, who transferred to Gonzaga this year, due in large part to its theater & dance department.

“At Gonzaga, I have been surprised by the amount of support students receive from faculty throughout the entire educational experience, as well as the amount of empathy and human connection faculty members hold,” he says.

Claypool finds inspiration from “dedication, risks, and vulnerability that theater artists take in developing their work.” He’s on a never-ending search for fuel to stoke his creative fire.

“I am constantly trying to find art or creative things I can do or go to and see different forms of art, even if it’s something I know nothing about, to expand my exposure to creative work,” he said. “I also try to let myself take on new experiences, even if I am unsure, and let myself grow as an artist however I can.”

Why Gonzaga?

Asked why he chose to transfer to Gonzaga, Claypool said, “I felt the theatre and dance program would best help me in developing and refining my creative work.”

He cites Courtney Smith, assistant professor of theater and dance, as having a strong influence.

“Courtney Smith has been the greatest influence for me since transferring to GU this fall,” he said. “He has pushed me to develop my confidence as an artist and explore new creative ideas. He has helped me to be able to recognize my own talent and how to be able to improve my shortfalls to strengthen myself as an artist.”

Largest Gift in University History

Miss Woldson celebrated her love of the arts and student success with a $55 million gift to Gonzaga in 2015 — the largest in University history — to fund student scholarships and build the 52,000-square-foot, two-story Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center.

Gonzaga President Thayne M. McCulloh (D.Phil.), said the facility “lays the foundation for a new era of teaching and learning in the creative disciplines and the humanities at Gonzaga through the College of Arts and Sciences.”

The building, together with the Jundt Art Center and Museum, form an arts village on the west side of campus, anchoring programs in music, theater, dance and the visual arts along the serpentine Spokane River.

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