Groups strive to spark student art discussion

Art is meant to be admired. It hangs in galleries and is performed in concert halls. But two campus groups aim to challenge students to engage directly with artistic works.

The programs are hosted by the Office of the Executive Director for the Arts and the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence.

The two programs coincide with four Carolina Performing Arts performances during the fall semester at Memorial Hall.

“We hope to inspire dialogue across the campus,” said Erin Hanehan, campus and community engagement coordinator for the executive director’s office.

Carolina Creative Campus

Carolina Creative Campus, an initiative through the office of the executive director for the arts, is exploring the theme of “voices of dissent” in its fourth year on campus.

“We are exploring how people act out, speak up and make their voices heard,” Hanehan said. Although there have been several protests on campus in the past year, the current topic choice was not a reflection of these dissenting voices, Hanehan said.

“The topic wasn’t chosen in reaction to any form of protest that have occurred on campus,” she said.

“It was deemed a relevant topic for young people, in general and on college campuses.”

Honors Art and Dialogue

The Johnston Center’s Honors Art and Dialogue program takes a more academic approach, conducting preparatory lectures given by expert University faculty members and post-performance seminars with the performers.

Executive Director Randi Davenport said the program is not for class credit, but rather another resource the school offers.

“It’s just an additional program we offer to honors students to help them integrate arts and their academic experience,” she said.

Link with performances

Each of the performances offers an international perspective to the student groups.

The Carolina Creative Campus line-up includes Ozomatli, a California-based Latino rock group and Hugh Masekela, a South African musician, composer and singer.

Masekela will also be part of the Honors Art and Dialogue program, along with dance and singing group Dynamic Korea and Cuban actress Omara Portuondo.

“The program has cultural resonance for students, especially the fact that it’s linked to a set of ideas and voices that they may not have otherwise heard,” Davenport said.

Other events and performances are still being confirmed for the Carolina Creative Campus.

The goal of both programs is to foster an audience of active listeners rather than one of passive admirers.

“Students have walked away from these performances with more confidence in their ability to connect an artistic piece to their own lives and intellectual interests,” said Aaron Shackelford, a graduate assistant at the Johnston Center.

Organizers hope the conversation will continue to spread around the community after the curtain drops.

“Although the dialogue is sparked by the arts, we hope that the program reaches the campus in its entirety,” Hanehan said.

Contact the Arts Editor at

artsdesk@unc.edu.

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