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Engaging the Arts: College Admission Essay Sample

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The second high school play I acted in was a curiosity, a documentary production written and rehearsed at the same time. The OMI Project was an attempt to document the history and culture of the combined district of the Ocean View, Merced Heights, and Ingleside (OMI) neighborhoods that surrounds my high school. Because the OMI is San Francisco’s most ethnically diverse district, we knew race would figure prominently in the play. Indeed, we dug up interviews about baseball legend Willie Mays’ troubles with buying a house in an all-white neighborhood, and the neighbors’ reaction to school desegregation. The history of the district’s demographic changes was an important component of the play’s narrative, but we needed some method of showing the OMI’s modern diversity.

That’s where Mr. Lawson came in. Lonnie Lawson is a soft-spoken 72-year-old African-American man who was president of the OMI homeowners’ association at the time the play was written. He has lived through the OMI’s transitions from a White working class, to a predominantly African-American, to a majority Asian, and now to a multi-ethnic gentrified neighborhood. Playing him in a verité style, evoking his downtempo speech patterns, vaguely rural accent, and whispered mannerisms was the challenge I tackled in order to get into the play’s unfamiliar topic of race

Walking the fine line between authenticity and caricature kept my interest in not just the script, but also the message of the play. Lawson’s main contribution to the OMI’s spirit of cultural inclusivity was the development of Brooks Park, a community garden designed to help immigrant neighbors “speak through vegetables, if not through language,” as Peter Vaernet, Lawson’s collaborator on the park project, likes to say. Restoring the park from a dilapidated lot where dog fights and drug deals took place was a monumental effort that we hoped to do justice with our portrayal. The result is a place where people of all races, nationalities, and cultures can go to enjoy nature.

I’ve witnessed that sense of OMI inclusivity firsthand on two occasions. The first was during our Ingleside library benefit performance of The OMI Project that we put on after our school theatre premiere. Instead of a set stage, we performed the show in the rec room of a local church whose “rose window” is a mural of the African-American leaders who made the OMI a sanctuary of tolerance. Surrounded by a collage of visionary faces, the audience and the players alike really felt they had contributed to Lawson and Vaernet’s vision of creating safe spaces for cultural exchange. The other moment arose when I was doing some landscaping work at Brooks Park and saw Vaernet, a native Dutch and English speaker, greet gardeners in fluent Chinese. What might otherwise seem an unexpected common ground between people of far-flung cultural backgrounds is actually the centerpiece of the OMI. Through our stage production and subsequent volunteering at the park, I’ve learned how a little creativity and labor can go a long way towards engendering that curious but fulfilling sense of multiculturalism. These are big ideas, but they can come alive closest to home.

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Engaging the Arts: College Admission Essay Sample. (2018, May 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 28, 2023, from
“Engaging the Arts: College Admission Essay Sample.” GradesFixer, 29 May 2018,
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Engaging the Arts: College Admission Essay Sample [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 May 29 [cited 2023 May 28]. Available from:
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