Initiative brings art to the centre of campus

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Graffiti art

Lauren Pelley

THE WRITINGS ON PINK FLOYD’S WALL? Graffiti art from Orientation Week is displayed next to the University Students’ Council office as part of the plan to integrate student art into the University Community Centre.

The University Community Centre is the living room of campus, and living rooms should have art, according to University Students’ Council President Stephen Lecce.

The USC Student Public Art Program is a new initiative by Western’s Student Life department designed to offer an artistic venue for students and community members, while also creating a more vibrant and comforting atmosphere within the UCC.

“The UCC needs colour, it needs to move away from the sterile and institutional look,” Lecce said.

While during tough economic times some may not see art as a high priority, Lecce emphasized the importance of offering a venue to Western’s talented student demographic.

“Albeit this is not the most pressing issue, it is an important one,” he said.

While the McIntosh Gallery and the John Labatt Visual Art Centre offer some artistic space on campus, the galleries suffer from low foot traffic from students not involved in art.

Displays in the UCC would bring art to the general student population and offer recognition to student artists, Lecce said.

He outlined other key benefits of the initiative: it will highlight a student space with student contribution and will also support the USC’s mandate of enhancing the education and quality of life of all undergraduate students.

The Student Public Art Program will begin with a pilot project in The Wave, which should be completed at the end of March according to Student Life director, Mark Wellington. In addition to providing inexpensive décor for the restaurant, the project will bring student talent to a student space.

Charlotte Hall, site manager for The Wave, said the display would brighten the restaurant’s atmosphere.

“It’s a student-run bar; it’s a student-run restaurant. It would be nice to have student art on the walls as well,” she said.

By the end of next year, the program will see several spaces throughout the UCC committed to art exhibits.

Open House Arts Collective (Oh!), a group promoting art endeavours within the London community, will help curate and advise the public art process.

“In essence, Oh! will be a conduit to art in the community and to Western students,” Wellington explained.

The art program provides a solution to what has been a lack of arts initiatives at Western in the past, said Paterson Hodgson, booking and promotions co-ordinator for Oh!.

“London is tough for art " there aren’t very many public galleries or even commercial galleries,” Hodgson said.

She thought the program would strengthen the relationship between student artists and London artists.

“Often those two are separated and I see this as a great opportunity to bridge that gap,” Hodgson said.

A committee of representatives from Western as well as London will select art submissions based on a number of features including artistic merit, site suitability, context, public safety and liability.

According to Wellington, the committee will most likely include members from Oh! as well as representatives from the USC’s Board of Directors and undergraduate students.

Art displays will be regularly renewed every four to six weeks. While the priority will be on student art, Wellington said they will also be seeking donations from alumni as well as members of the London community. The USC is also discussing having some permanent exhibits.

Other long-term goals of the Student Public Art Program include adding a feature to the USC website where students could purchase print versions of any art displays.

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