Irresponsibly engaged

April 18 and 19 was a great success for many students, especially due to the diverse presentations at this year’s Celebration of Student Scholarship. Just like other students, we have been looking forward to showcasing our work since we started creating it a few months ago.

For our main ceramics project in Art and Environmental Activism, we decided to foster increased awareness of students, faculty and especially administration of the sustainability efforts at Concordia, or lack thereof. While there have certainly been efforts that have increased our campus’ sustainability, many of the efforts are insignificant and misguided. These efforts have all been funded by investments in oil, as well as from alumni who work for unsustainable businesses and follow unsustainable practices. The majority of the time, projects seem to be started due to the fact that they will save money or will give Concordia an improved reputation, and not to save our world. Concordia cannot preach about sustainability efforts on campus when they have been so insignificant and misguided, and there is a long way to go.

We knew that some people would be offended by our artwork, “Irresponsibly Engaged in the World,” but that was exactly our point.  To be an environmental activist, we need to speak up and alarm people to get a message across. We understand that some messages can be unpleasant, but the actions taken against our piece were disrespectful.  Instead of feeling proud of our art when walking into the art exhibit, “From the Earth,” we experienced incomprehensible shock. For a piece that we worked on for months and an artist statement that we fought to be published, it was frustrating to have the meaning our art piece, indicated in our artist statement, forcefully changed by the gallery hosts without our knowledge.  Not only was this statement rewritten, but we believe the message was completely changed. Our names were placed on a statement that we do not believe in, nor did we write.

As students we are taught to not put false information in our assignments, so we wonder why it was done by superiors at an institution where it is frowned upon. The actions taken upon our artwork and statement were not only disrespectful, but the censoring of our art and its message was outrageous. It should not have happened, and if we have anything to say about it, it won’t happen again.

This letter was submitted by Sadie Fliegel and Sarah Vlasak, both members of Concordia class of 2013.

 

Original Statement for
Celebration of Student Scholarship Presentation:
“Throughout our 4 years at Concordia, we cannot begin to count the number of times we have discussed BREWing in the classroom and seminar setting. We cannot count the number of times we have written a paper about BREWing. We can, however, easily count the number of times we have witnessed and participated in BREWing.
While Concordia College has taken many steps towards a more sustainable campus, the steps have often been insignificant and misguided. Most of all, such sustainable steps have been founded on investments in oil, and donations from alum of environmentally harmful businesses. Our piece conveys this message through the bad and the worst of Concordia, seen on each side of the globe.
Join the collective movement for Concordia College to act on what it preaches and bring sustainability to the forefront of our school’s mission to be responsibly engaged in the world. If we can’t be responsible at our campus level, what irresponsibility are we engaging in at the global level?”

Revised Statement
“In the context of their belief that Concordia College has been minimally involved in environmental efficiency, Vlasak and Fliegel reflect on the concept of BREWing, which has been implemented into the curriculum over their college career.
The artists’ intent is to convey their belief that sustainability and global engagement are responsibilities that Concordia College should deem as an integral part of its mission. It shows that the lack of environmental awareness has global effects.

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Contributing Writer

This article was contributed to The Concordian by an outside writer. Questions and comments on this article should be directed to concord@cord.edu.

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    The art department and those involved with the creation and execution of this exhibit,” From the Earth,” would like to make a statement in response to the claims mentioned by the students above. First, the show and all of its components were a collaborative effort between students in Art and Environmental Activism and Museum Studies II. The job of the Museum Studies students was to develop a show and practice their curatorial skills, including writing interpretive gallery labels, which is common practice in all museums and galleries.
    Interpretive gallery labels are designed to succinctly summarize the artists’ statements, if they are available, and to interpret the works themselves. In this case, artists’ statements were provided for the students of the Museum Studies class by the artists, and they were used in the writing of the labels that appeared next to the pieces in the show. Though the artists’ names were attached, this was not to suggest they were responsible for the text of the interpretive label, but for the piece itself, as with any gallery or museum label. Furthermore, though these collaborated interpretive labels are the ones that were posted next to the artwork, the original artists’ statements were also published in an online PDF that was, and still is, available for anyone to read. You may find the link here:

    http://www.cord.edu/Academics/Research/assets/Artist_Statements_FromtheEarth.pdf

    These accusations are a gross misrepresentation of the department, the students, and all people involved with the creation of the exhibit. It was always a collaborative effort, and though it can be understood how the students above believed they were censored, it is not true; every piece had an interpretive label written by the students of Museum Studies and an artist statement. The labels specifically were used as a learning tool for the Museum Studies students, who were given the responsibility of organizing the exhibit. Overall, this was a learning experience for students of both classes. The artists created and gave their pieces, and in return, the Museum Studies students designed and curated an exhibit for them to showcase their work. To suggest that some higher power at Concordia censored this work is completely unfounded.
    In the end, there is a profound sense of sadness for these two students who believed they were censored. It is unfortunate that they missed seeing their published original artist statement, and were not able to contact the professors or other students involved for an explanation. Overall, it is disappointing that such a positive collaborative experience that involved multiple departments and viewpoints was misrepresented in this way. We apologize for any misunderstanding, but the facts are clear.

    Signed:

    Kaitlyn Garvin Student, Museum Studies II
    Artist, Art and Environmental Activism
    Michaela Chorn Student, Museum Studies II
    Assistant Director of Cyrus M. Running Gallery
    Susan Lee Professor, Museum Studies II
    Assistant Professor of Art, Director of
    Cyrus M. Running Gallery
    Ross Hilgers Professor, Art and Environmental Activism
    Associate Professor of Art

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