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Lack of campus art damages students in unpredictable ways

New year, new mindset, same walls.

Concordia as we all know and love, has the theme of old-timey religious architecture (that’s the technical term). The library is just one example. It is under consideration to be remodeled, but I guarantee many will fight the demolishing of its ancient smell and hidden stacks. The ancient, outdated charm that is embodied in the library is something we all signed up for. But unfortunately for students, part of the college’s perception on the college’s ancient decor marks artwork and color as irrelevant. The current status on campus has color, and artwork overlooked and campus ends up feeling eerily similar to the high school classrooms we thought we escaped from. I am not expecting campus to turn into The Museum of Modern Art in New York,  but a color here and there, or an updated picture would go a long way.

This convenient choice to abstain from colorful campus and artwork can be seen in the newly remodeled science building. The college ended up going with an industrial feel and decor, an ode to the particularism nature of the science world, but it feels cold. To any outsider that hasn’t memorized the identical hallways it feels like a labyrinth of carbon copy classrooms. Even the separate departments have no sense of expressed individuality. This approach only sets the student up to feel like they are being cranked through the college system and any other student could replace them, a detrimental effect for a student’s mental health and their expectations with a liberal arts education. While these may not be conscious thoughts, they are subliminal messages that students absorb over time, and art could be the difference.

The complex kinetic sculpture that sits in the science center’s entryway is an amazing example of what art can do and be if it is more present in our lives. If only the positive impact of that art was present in other pieces across campus. If only there weren’t white walls everywhere. If only murals were not a fictitious term or a far off reality. Last year, I and several other art students had to go through an enormous amount of appeals to do wheatpasting and apply the fun shapes and circles to the wall of Olin facing the hill. They are applied with all natural wheat and the understanding was that they would stay up and bring color and fun to a part of campus as long as winter allowed before the weather uprooted the adhesive. We ended up having to scratch it off the wall early because a professor and or staff complained of its lack of professionalism.

Why is art expendable?

I can’t tell you how many students walked by that art and smiled, a true and joyful smile, having a brighter day even just for a moment. Why isn’t the joy from even this one art installation a priority on campus? Students aren’t always happy, college is hard and art helps. A huge part of setting a truly happy tone around campus is color, and it doesn’t even have to effect the professionalism of the college.

Doctors’ offices, lawyers’ offices, and courtrooms are all places considered ”strictly business” that possess color. There is beauty in clean white like in the Skyway and the countless professional headshots it has been the background to. But, look up or reflect on the walking bridge over interstate I-94 connecting the Sculpture garden and Loring Park. The bridge was reimagined this summer and countless people have taken pictures and fallen in love with its modern playfulness. It’s the same bridge that looked worn out and overlooked just a year earlier but it has been created in a different way, a better way, and all they did was paint it. Art transforms a space and the people that inhabit it. Color could transform Concordia.

New year, new perspective, same walls.

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