Dried leaves and hardened dirt is all that remains where Silent Sam once stood.
But some 350 yards away from McCorkle Place stand different kinds of statues.These are not bronze Confederate soldiers, but an array of student artwork in the Alumni Sculpture Garden. Among them is a recent addition commemorating a 2017 protest against Silent Sam.
Student artist Meredith Emery created the piece to serve as a reminder of the diverse voices on campus. She hopes her artwork will spark conversation for those who pass by it.
“I want there to be some people to stop and be like, ‘Oh what's this,’” Emery said. “If there's any kind of conversation that comes from that and gets people's wheels turning on something bigger than themselves, I think that's productive and beneficial.”
Through conversations sparked by the sculpture, Emery hopes students will notice their surroundings and engage with the people and environment around them.
“There's all of this technology that keeps us from actually interacting with one another on the street like looking at our phones,” Emery said. “Creating artwork as catalysts for conversations is basically what it's all about.”
Through her work, Emery intends to emphasize the idea of listening to one another, not only through the conversations she hopes to inspire, but in the structure of the sculpture itself.
The electric red, tower-like figure is a large-scale representation of a sound wave she captured on her iPhone of protesters chanting, “Forward together, not one step back." A plaque bearing the chant also stands with the sculpture.
Emery’s installation now sits at a crossroad of sidewalks outside Hanes Art Center. It was chosen to be displayed during a competition hosted by the Department of Art and Art History. Undergraduate and graduate students submit art proposals to the Alumni Sculpture Garden for the opportunity to have their work displayed in the garden. If chosen, they are given an honorarium to fund creation for their work.
Jim Hirschfield, chairperson of the Alumni Sculpture Garden Committee, said he thinks it’s necessary to have art like this on campus.
“I think it's important for all students that they become visually literate,” Hirschfield said. "So a part of it is the educational process and faculty responsibility to educate students, not just in the classroom but in other situations.”
For students like Emery, the competition is a chance to learn beyond the classroom.
Yun-Dong Nam, a ceramics professor in the Department of Art and Art History, helped Emery troubleshoot technical issues during the construction of the sculpture. The competition is a valuable chance for students to gain experience displaying art in public spaces, Nam said.
Emery’s work will be displayed in the garden for at least one year, and will stay there as long as it remains intact, Hirschfield said.
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