I am writing to add my thoughts on the vandalism of my students’ project in Fine Arts that occurred week before last.
Although I agree with most of what Jessie Blanchard wrote in her column last week, I am not as forgiving as she is because I do not find vandalizing others’ work as an acceptable response to register ones’ disagreement.
I am especially disappointed to find that a UTM student would take this course of action. I believe an important function of a liberal arts education is to provide a place where individuals encounter and learn about differing points of view in an atmosphere of open discussion. Engendered in such a system is the recognition that not all of us will agree with each other but that part of what we are learning is how to carry on discussions and learn to respect differences of opinion even if we do not ultimately agree.
Each Spring I teach the course “Art Theory and Criticism” that deals with historical and contemporary theories of art. In an effort to make the course content more tangible I require the students to form groups and create exhibits whose express purpose is to explore one or more of the theories we have studied about what art is or isn’t. The intention of these exhibits is to stimulate discussion among the students enrolled in the course and among those who see the exhibit.
Jessie’s groups’ exhibit ‘Ditto’ was intended to examine some contemporary theories about objects and their context with regards to whether they will or will not be recognized as art. Even the students in the class don’t all agree about whether the pieces in the ‘Ditto’ exhibit were art or not, but that’s where the discussion begins and each person can begin to refine their own thoughts on the subject.
This week one of the other groups has their piece on display in the Fine Arts building and the ‘Ditto’ group will be putting theirs back up. You can find a third group’s efforts in the display case outside Gooch 120 and 121.
I invite you to come and look, read their statements and engage in some conversation about the nature of visual art today. In addition to these shows, the juried exhibit of UTM art students’ work is currently being shown in the Fine Arts Gallery.
Dr. Carol Eckert is an assistant professor of Visual and Theatre Arts.