The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 8th

Students Use Art to Tell UNC's `Hidden Truths'

A mock funeral march down Franklin Street preceded the memorial service.

As the students, who were clothed in black, traveled from Hanes Art Center to a fenced-in graveyard of artwork in front of Silent Sam, their somber faces and mournful attire drew many curious stares from observers. One perplexed pedestrian asked, "Why do they look so sad?"

The answer to this question could be found in the students' art structures, which also were colored in black to symbolize the University's dark secrets that the demonstration aimed to expose.

The artwork varied from a burnt recliner that represented the drunken revelry accompanying college parties to a tree stump that signified the trees lost to campus construction.

Students said they chose the backdrop of Silent Sam because, while the monument of the Civil War soldier is officially recognized on campus, it still represents only a small portion of UNC's history.

Art Professor Elin O'Hara Slavick said her class of 16 students got the project idea during an intense brainstorming session and that they have been working on the artwork for the past month. "This project looks at the whole idea of truth and how stories get told and publicized," she said. "We tried to look at history to see what's been left out and what's been ignored."

Slavick said that while this project covered controversial issues, her class tried to remain unbiased. "Some people in my class are very opinionated and wanted to take a stand, while others wanted to remain more neutral," she said. "We were very careful about not really taking a stand on any issue. We just want to reveal things about the University that people might not know about."

Students solemnly read brief facts about each piece of artwork and then encouraged onlookers to comment on what they have both seen and heard. "If you don't question what you've seen, then our work has been in vain," said freshman art major Elizabeth Wicker.

Senior cultural studies major Michal Osterweil said she appreciates the knowledge she gained about the University while working on the assignment. "I have always been a social activist more than an artist," she said. "This project showed me how powerful art can be as a means of raising social conscience. Through art, you can express things that you can't get across by just doing a protest."

Michael Mattischent, an exchange student from Germany, presented artwork that focused on air pollution in North Carolina. Mattischent's piece, which depicted a bicycle overpowering a car tire, was meant to lash out at all drivers of sport utility vehicles. "Back home in Germany, I don't own a car, and I don't foresee myself owning one when I return," he said. "One of the things that struck me when I came to Chapel Hill was that so many people drove really big cars. I can't believe that they actually need them."

Wicker said the project not only gave her more knowledge about UNC, but also about her artistic talents. She said more students need to be aware of all issues on campus, not just the most obvious topics. "The important thing to know about this project is that this information is available to all students," she said. "It wasn't like we snooped around to find these facts. All you have to do is ask."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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