New student organizations in a pandemic: Mattingly Brothers Garage

March 29, 2021

MBG President Henry Mattingly pictured with the first project completed by the organization. Photographed by Madison Haufbauer.

This past year has made proper social engagement difficult for many students. Without the ability to gather in person,  Student organizations have had to adapt and adjust their activities to fit the safety standards of the world we currently live in, just like every business or school has had to. For many student lead organizations, times are difficult but with their already established group of members, plenty of engagement still goes on. There are, however, newly formed student organizations that get formed every semester, including during the pandemic that do not get the benefit of having an established group of members to recruit or get students more easily involved. 

One of these new organizations that formed late last semester is Mattingly Brothers Garage (MBG), an art-focused organization determined to grow and be an inclusive place for art students to feel engaged with their own and others’ creativity during these difficult times. The organization was formed in December 2020 by MBG President Henry Mattingly and Vice President Marissa Green. 

Mattingly is a freshman music education major with a passion for not only music but theatre and all different forms of art as well. His passions led him to want to form his own organization at NKU. Mattingly said he chose the name Mattingly Brothers Garage as he wanted to carry down the name of his father’s advertising business. 

Enrolling at NKU as a music education and composition major, I found that opportunities were very scarce when it came to my artistic interests outside of music —so, this got me thinking about other students who also don’t have opportunities in the arts due to their chosen majors, or students who struggle to practice and hone their craft because of classes that have them inactive in their passions,” Mattingly said.

Mattingly was not intimidated by the challenges that came with starting a new organization during a pandemic. Mattingly said he was driven by his idea that students of all backgrounds and interests could join to partake in the arts through a community that is supportive and consistently ready to work. 

Mattingly knew he could not form and maintain a new organization on his own. He would need help from other students who were just as passionate as him. One of these students was freshman piano performance major Maria Huff, now MBG’s Ambassador of Music. Huff has a deep passion for music and is the organization’s Ambassador of Music. She looks to oversee any projects or passions students might have involving the musical arts within the organization as she has connections with faculty within the department.

Huff mentioned how Mattingly started the organization because he noticed that with the arts there can be a lot of “gatekeeping” when students do not show particular interest in a particular field to a tee, they often are rejected in that field. Mattingly founded the organization to combat this standard of the arts and make students feel more open and included in their interests.

MBG currently has six different departments that students can take an interest in which include: Music, Theatre and Dance, Visual Arts, Digital Arts, Literature and Poetry, as well as Cinematography and Photography. Each department has its own ambassador to help organize projects tailored to the passions of the students involved. 

Keeping the passion of students alive during this pandemic is a concern for many schools and student organizations. Limited or no in-person events mean everything must be done digitally in order to make students feel like they are not missing out. It is difficult to know how each student perceives social interaction over the internet and to know if they are struggling to feel engaged. MBG is tackling that concern head-on as an organization that needs to recruit new members since it is newly formed; Mattingly is confident they can find new ways to keep students engaged.

“Marketing the organization has been difficult. We have taken to many different methods, our most effective method being direct emailing and contact with students. We understand that recruitment is going to be a challenge given current hurdles, but it is a challenge we are willing to face head-on,” Mattingly said.

In just a few short months, the organization has already recruited a total of 37 students across the six different departments within the organization. Mattingly and Huff, along with their other council members, have been using programs like Discord to provide an opportunity for everyone within the organization to feel and stay connected to one another.

“Where we conduct most of our organizational stuff is on a Discord server since so many people are remote, it’s really easy having it all in one place,” Huff said.

Everyone involved within the organization is striving to be inclusive and really making every student who has any kind of passion for art feel welcomed, according to Mattingly.

“Student involvement ebbs and flows as everyone handles their classes and personal lives but we’re always looking for new ways to engage everyone,” Vice President Marissa Green said.

The organization has even completed its first of many projects, which is a bookshelf created to help hold unused books for music students to use. Mattingly and his council partnered with SOTA to implement their new project for students to use. The bookshelf is located in the SOTA building where students can check out and borrow books throughout the semester. The organization hopes projects like these will encourage students to feel like they can get involved and help people around campus via their passions. The organization is currently planning to complete many different projects throughout their different departments.

“Our music department is working on a pop-up concert that they will be performing sometime in the near future, our literature department is setting up a book club and has weekly writing prompts, and our theatre department is working to have a dance masterclass in the near future,” Mattingly said.

Additional information about the MBG’s latest projects and plans for student involvement can be found on their Discord Server using code: Rj9PBAKeG9, or through their social media accounts: Instagram @mbg.nku and Twitter @mbgnku

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New student organizations in a pandemic: Mattingly Brothers Garage