It is no secret that the arts play a fundamental role in the lives of a large portion of UNCG’s student body. Our College of Visual and Performing Arts is thriving, with more and more bright young artists being admitted each academic year. We are granted access to concerts and performances by supremely talented instrumentalists in our world-renowned music program, and we even have our own art museum, the Weatherspoon, right here on campus.
With such excellence surrounding these students, it poses the question; how is UNCG faring in their work to provide students with an enriching college experience – one that chiefly involves arts and entertainment? To find out, we asked students around campus to identify a few areas in which they believe the university could further advocate for art.
Our principal and most significant discovery is that the majority of students believe UNCG’s art presence is largely inadequate. All individuals interviewed had a great deal of input on the impact of art – and its necessity – within college student populations, and proposed ways in which UNCG can work to meet this need.
Chiefly, many students expressed their desire to see more local artists on campus – a request that would be deemed reasonable by most, given UNCG’s track record. Of the 10 exhibits featured at the Weatherspoon Art Museum during this academic year, none focused primarily on works created by local non-faculty or non-student artists. Given Greensboro’s rich history as a center of artistic progress, with its vast array of public murals, sculptures and downtown galleries, the Weatherspoon’s decisive action of avoidance towards local artists seems unusual.
Some may argue that this decision proved unintentional, with the institution opting to focus instead on UNCG’s message of globalization with exhibits like “Isichapuitu,” Peruvian artist Kukuli Velarde’s collection of ceramic figures, or “Baggage Claims,” a collection portraying the ways in which immigration influences our physical and emotional lives. Whatever the case may be, many visitors view the Weatherspoon’s worldly selection as lacking, and continue to seek local art from other sources.
An additional concern of UNCG students is the seeming lack of displays of student artwork around campus. Although, as previously mentioned, the Weatherspoon makes a point of exhibiting at least one show of undergraduate and graduate student art each year. Besides that student artwork from over the years is prominently displayed in the EUC, specifically the Art Lounge, amd presence of student illustrations, paintings and sketches in decorate the Gatewood building.
UNCG’s graduating artists and faculty have an impressive post-college record; some of the most notable recent achievements include alumni Samuel Peck visiting The Institute for Visual Studies at James Madison University to hold innovative workshops and display his exhibition “Draw and Play Here,” as well as adjunct professor of ceramics Ibrahim Said being featured on the cover of acclaimed publication “Ceramics Monthly.”
The lack of discernible art on campus as a whole appeared to be quite disconcerting to many – with such a colorful and dynamic campus community, one would expect more than just the bare minimum of founders’ portraits and the blown-up photographs of students lining the walls beneath the caf.
Outside of the realm of visual art, many connected with their more bookish selves when requesting university entertainment. “I would love to see campus host more authors and literary events.” said Caroline Galdi, a sophomore English student here at UNCG.
Others agreed, citing the 2016 visit from Najla Said, author of the Keker First Year Common Read book “Looking for Palestine.” Said’s appearance on campus worked to emphasize both the campus’s focus on global engagement and UNCG’s dedication to literacy as well as a strong liberal arts education.
Since then, there has been only one other major literary event hosted by UNCG itself that has been heavily advertised around campus, and that was yet another Keker First Year Common Read guest speaker. The main issue with this is the Keker First Year Common Read program is primarily directed towards freshmen at UNCG.
Regardless of the medium, it is clear that students expect a greater art presence from such an aesthetic and creatively-minded university. Attention to student, faculty and local artwork, globally-minded authors and literature and campus beautification must be considered in order to make UNCG’s artistic vibrancy reflect the diversity and uniqueness that the university is so proud to possess.