When Carlos Alejandro Sánchez-Tatá, CC ’24, began his studies at Columbia in fall 2020, he did not join any student organizations. But by his second semester, he was desperate to connect with other art students. Thinking back on his extracurriculars from high school, Sánchez-Tatá decided to create a club where art students and enthusiasts could meet and create art together.
The Useless Art Society, created last February, is a space where students can virtually gather and make art pieces. Hosting Zoom meetings twice a month, the organization provides an opportunity for students to connect with each other and take a break from their studies.
Sánchez-Tatá began his involvement in the arts during high school, first focusing on painting during his sophomore year. Throughout high school, he created three portfolios using mediums such as sculpture, drawing, and painting. By senior year, he was president of his school’s art club and was balancing his studies while interning at the Pérez Art Museum Miami.
Unlike larger art organizations on campus, the Useless Art Society provides more intimate connections between students. With around 10 active members, the Useless Art Society focuses on fostering community and creativity.
“I was so in need of meeting other artists at Columbia, especially the younger ones, the freshmen who are not on campus. … I wanted a place where we could communicate, and bring us together,” Sánchez-Tatá said.
Beginning by playing music as students arrive, meetings generate a relaxed atmosphere where artists feel comfortable expressing themselves. Following many song requests during the meetings, members created a collaborative Spotify playlist where anyone could contribute their favorite songs. After brief conversations when the artists talk about their weeks, they begin to paint, draw, photograph, and edit together, creating a space where they can bond through their mutual passion for art.
The club hosts monthly art shows where students create art pieces based around a particular theme. For March, it ran an exhibition around the idea of “connections,” where members created art pieces small enough to mail to each other. The exhibitions occur on the last Sunday of the month via Zoom, and afterwards the art is published on the club’s website. These art shows are not exclusive to club members: Anyone can submit pieces as long as they follow the theme.
Sánchez-Tatá wanted to give the club a name that would spark interest and curiosity for others. He decided to incorporate the word “useless” as an ironic reference to how some people believe that art—and more broadly, the humanities—is pointless. As an art history and visual arts major, Sánchez-Tatá does not agree with that sentiment.
“Sometimes art is considered useless, but it’s magic. There’s so much to it. Art helps us connect, reflect, and express ourselves. That’s what the Useless Art Society is about,” Sánchez-Tatá said.
As most of the club’s members currently live off campus, the organization is their strongest connection with the University.
For April, the Useless Art Society is planning an exhibition about “burnout,” centered around the exhaustion that many students feel near the end of the school year. Unlike the March exhibition, the pieces will not have a size limitation, allowing club members to use larger canvases to express themselves.
“I think more about how to bring the community together talking about our own painful experiences ending this semester with finals and everything,” Sánchez-Tatá said.
In the future, Sánchez-Tatá hopes to attract more members and host more art shows. He plans to hold weekly club meetings so that students can participate often and create more pieces. But above all, he hopes to continue fostering community and a love for the arts through the Useless Art Society.