Multiple members of St. Anthony Hall believe the University’s dedication to art is lacking, which is why they believe the approach “The Hall” takes to promote an environment of art and cultural acceptance is crucial to UNC art reform.
As UNC’s second oldest Greek organization and the only arts and literary fraternity on campus, the Delta Psi chapter has an extensive history of cultural and demographic shifts that each member embraces.
St. Anthony Hall secretary Marissa Muller said while the Greek organization was founded by a group of white men, it was their decision to incorporate more diversity into the fraternity.
The chapter of St. Anthony Hall was founded in 1854 and became inactive after the Civil War until it was re-founded in 1926. It became the first to admit African Americans at UNC in 1967 and became co-educational in 1971.
Muller said the fraternity has continued to cultivate inclusion, which she said has rightfully earned St. Anthony Hall the reputation of the “liberal, gay art frat.”
"I think we've been on the forefront of a lot of shifts in Chapel Hill's Greek culture, and I think we're continuing that now,” Muller said. “It's institutional in our frat; it's part of our bylaws that at each rush event, every member and each rushee give their pronouns, so we're creating an inclusive environment where people don't have to feel like they have to be the odd one out to give their pronouns.”
Literary editor Jennifer Su said St. Anthony Hall is a safe haven in UNC culture for people of all backgrounds.
"We're an accepting space, which is quite frankly unusual in UNC Greek life,” Su said. “A lot of UNC Greek life conforms to a lot of social narratives, and I think that we at St. Anthony Hall are always trying to challenge those social narratives by accepting people of any gender, race and any background."
Su said becoming a member of St. Anthony Hall has helped her expand her perception of art and made her realize art of all kinds is accessible to everyone.
“Art is the visceral feeling of love, passion and creativity that makes you feel alive, and this space helped me realize that art isn't some institutional barrier that is easily categorizable, but it really is everywhere," Su said.
Visual editor Kaleb Lyda said he wasn’t an art major prior to joining St. Anthony Hall in the second semester of his sophomore year. He said the welcoming and accepting culture of “The Hall” encouraged him to be more comfortable sharing his art.
"After I joined the space, art became infinitely less intimidating to me because I was surrounded by people who were able to make that open and just take the pressure out of it,” Lyda said. “It's interesting to me to come into this space where I feel like art is less intimidating because I'm with people that I trust and care about, where sometimes in academic classes, it's really intimidating to share your art."
While members of St. Anthony Hall keep accessibility and inclusivity at the forefront of their aims, they said the University’s agenda seems to be less focused on these goals.
"The funding that UNC directs toward the arts is minimal,” Muller said. “If you look at the Hanes Art Center, it's currently in disrepair. It has holes in the ceiling, compared to the more public-facing ArtsEverywhere initiative, which the University wants to present to visitors and prospective students on campus to make them think we have a strong art presence and we really promote and are supportive of the arts. But when you come down to it bureaucratically, and looking at the numbers, it doesn't seem like UNC is putting any money behind that."
Su said the University only acknowledges high art or mainstream art to attract attention and generate revenue instead of focusing on resources students need to create and share art.
“The University is very focused on the monetizing aspect of art, where they create money off of art rather than letting art stand by itself,” Su said. “A lot of decisions UNC makes on the art department are colored on what the benefactors want, rather than what is best for the students."
Similarly to Su and Muller’s perspectives, Lyda said UNC is more concerned with showy and extravagant art displays that make the University money at the cost of “unusable” art facilities.
"I think the University's push for engagement with art on campus is heavily tied to University fundraising, and the economics of running the University as a business as opposed to promoting art for the sake of art and for art as a connecting and healing process and a way to engage with the community,” Lyda said. “I think that piece is missing."
Though Lyda remains conflicted about how the University promotes the arts, he said St. Anthony Hall will always be a space where anyone is comfortable making art that reflects their true identity, which is a crucial component of the art making and sharing processes.
"I think the best art is the art that speaks to who you are, and comes from where you are right now,” Lyda said.
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