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The Daily Tar Heel

Letter: Art makes us, and the campus, better


With lovely spring weather upon us, it’s hard to imagine UNC’s campus appearing any more beautiful.

However, the recent additions of Los Trompos (giant, colorful, spinning tops), painted pianos and pop-up musical performances have launched Carolina’s outdoor aesthetics to an entirely new level.

These engaging installations (with many more to come in the week) are fragments of the greater “Arts Everywhere” initiative, a campus-wide arts celebration supported by the Chancellor’s Office. As noted on the University’s website, the initiative is founded upon the following four principles:

1. The arts are for everyone.

2. Every space can be a creative space.

3. The arts create and share new meaning.

4. Curiosity and discovery enrich daily life.

As an arts and humanities student, these statements are tenets of my daily life. They are — personally — unobjectionable, and guide not only my academic pursuits, but also my interactions with others and the world. I know many other arts and humanities students who feel the same way.

I was quite unaware, until now, that the University felt the same way.

I do not mean to suggest that Carolina isn’t an arts-friendly place; I believe any artist or arts-enthusiast can find support, inspiration and a community at Carolina.

Still, the nature of this initiative (in conjunction with past experiences as an arts student at Carolina) forces me to question the University’s dedication to those aforementioned “founding principles.”

To illustrate a few of these concerns:

1. The initiative was created by the Chancellor’s Office with (to the best of my knowledge) little to no input from the general student body about how the arts could be better integrated in their lives and spaces. Though student arts groups are involved in the unfolding activities of the week, I can’t help but wonder how many — if any — students were directly involved in the designing of the initiative. This sort of top-down construction does not indicate a real dedication to the artistic needs and desires of the student body, but rather seems to be the University’s method of branding itself as a “supporter of the arts.”

2. The University has shown before that, in fact, not every space is a creative space, with any form of undesignated or — God forbid — protest artwork being quickly removed from campus. Students have attempted to compromise with the administration before, in advocating for a “free expression” area on campus, to no avail.

3. The initiative culminates on April 7, with no indication of a path toward ensuring the longevity of — and protections for — student arts programs at Carolina.

Do not get me wrong, I love Los Trompos and colorful pianos as much as anyone, but I do not love the idea of a student body unable to participate in designing an initiative that supposedly exists for “everyone.”

Even less do I love the idea of a university that exploits student artists and arts groups to bolster its own public image.

There have been artists and art groups at Carolina since its inception, and they won’t be gone after April 7.

Hopefully, the University’s support will stick around too.

Archer Boyette

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Art History