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The Daily Tar Heel

Art professors get involved in community

Årt Gallery in Horace Williams House.
Årt Gallery in Horace Williams House.

“Hearing how they didn’t see photography as an art form because it lacked the touch of a hand such as painting was enriching,” said Schlesinger, who got her Master of Fine Arts from UNC. “It was profound to hear about their ideals of art and listen to the changing attitudes and perceptions.”

Opportunities to interact with artists in the community can broaden a student’s perspectives and encourage learning beyond the classroom. Many UNC art professors are deeply involved in the local arts scene and eager to involve students in their projects.

“There’s a long history of the faculty looking for and finding ways to bring art and make art happen in the Triangle as well as across the state,” said Jim Hirschfield, the art department chairman.

Hirschfield once led a service learning class to write a master plan for art in Chapel Hill, which the Town Council consulted when allocating budget money for the arts.

“The students had a major impact through that class on the town’s art plans,” he said.

While Hirschfield works to have an impact through planning and policy, slavick includes students in her projects to invigorate the local arts scene.

Tracy Spencer-Stonestreet, a UNC graduate, was involved in slavick’s project to transform the old Chapel Hill Public Library into an exhibition space in 2011.

“One of the things elin does really well is she activates the community, so we had a lot of artists who wanted to be involved,” she said.

slavick also showcases local artists together with international artists to help them gain exposure.

“When I put on shows for my community, it’s not only showing my work but also putting on shows that include people from the community,” she said.

Professor Jeff Whetstone makes North Carolina the subject of his art and tries to familiarize his students with local art venues.

“I live here and I’m going to stay here, so it’s imperative for me to live in an artistically rich environment,” he said.

His art works are included in NCMA’s permanent collection, and he often exhibits in the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh.

“Jeff Whetstone — you could probably write a whole article about us and him,” said Marjorie Hodges, the director of the Contemporary Art Foundation at CAM. “He and other artists make recommendations to us, and he brings his students here to see exhibitions.”

Other local art venues like Preservation Chapel Hill’s Horace Williams House are also beginning to engage art professors. The arts committee of the house decided last year to showcase one UNC art professor each year in a series. slavick was chosen this year  to exhibit her collages.

“Horace Williams House is University property, so there is a connection with the property,” said Tama Hochbaum, co-chairwoman of Preservation Chapel Hill’s arts committee. “We wanted to highlight the people who are doing extraordinary work in the arts department.”

The work of many professors to support the arts locally is an ongoing process. slavick still hopes to continue her project of someday transforming the old Chapel Hill Public Library into a contemporary art museum.

“My dream would be to open up a museum there that I run with my students — I teach my classes, my students will help curate the show,” she said. “It will be a great experience for them.”

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