This time last year, a group of art students and faculty called Artist Researchers Together for Higher Education Reform or ART HERE UNC gathered on the steps of South Building to protest the lack of funding for the arts at UNC. To illustrate the University’s neglect of the arts, the group cited systemic issues impacting the Art Department, including loss of tenured faculty, low graduate student pay and damaged facilities (such as the perpetually-leaking roof at Hanes Art Center). They presented then-Chancellor Folt with a list of 16 demands, ranging from essential building repairs to the removal of Silent Sam.
That protest came just weeks after the second annual Arts Everywhere Day in early April 2018.
The initiative, which began in 2016 as a project of the chancellor’s office under Carol Folt, celebrates the role of the arts at UNC by sponsoring public art installations, performances, exhibitions and more. But despite the popular success of the event, it was Arts Everywhere that initially sparked the ire of many art students and faculty. After being excluded from the organizing and programming of the event, ART HERE UNC accused the University of using art as a marketing tool for the Campaign for Carolina, without giving substantive support to artists working, teaching and learning on campus. The protests that followed aimed to draw attention to the reality of arts funding at UNC — leaky roofs and all.
This Friday will be the third annual Arts Everywhere Day. While the painted pianos that characterized the first two events are missing this year, Arts Everywhere has made important strides in creating a more inclusive arts environment at UNC. They have expanded their programming, sponsoring a variety of events throughout the year, as well as their list of partners, which includes a variety of groups on and off campus. Bowing to the Art Department’s complaints of exclusion, Arts Everywhere has invited student art groups like the SAMple Gallery and the Studio Art Majors Association to lead major events.
But a year after the ART HERE UNC protests, most of the group’s demands have not been met and plenty of work remains to address problems related to funding the arts on campus. Including art students in campus conversations like Arts Everywhere is important, but it ultimately fails to address the institutional neglect that arts students and faculty experience at UNC. Arts Everywhere says its mission is to “embed the arts into daily life at Carolina,” but the arts are already here. They just need us to invest in them.