- Statement on Student Artwork Left on the Quad
Students in the School of Art and Design regularly explore how art achieves meaning and significance through experimentation with setting and presentation. Recently, as part of a non-major class assignment, a student left a class project on the South Terrace of the Illini Union, a place on the quad that has historically functioned as this campus’ most public platform for pronouncements, demonstrations, and displays.
This site has served for decades as a place where students and other community members gather to invite collective address of urgent matters. For example, black students gathered on the South Terrace on September 10, 1968 to discuss the inadequate housing provided as part of Project 500, Illinois’ first concentrated effort to admit more students of color. That gathering turned historic when, after staging a sit-in just inside the Union in the South Lounge, the university responded by arresting 240 students - a galvanizing moment for civil rights at Illinois.
When students, staff, faculty, and community members think of “public” on campus in terms of “public address,” they often think of the South Terrace. So it’s understandable that a student artist looking to understand how an artwork’s meaning takes shape through its setting might try siting a work there. There is even a justifiable precedent for doing so without permission, as sometimes an artwork that has been granted permission is already constrained in what it can say, do, communicate, or symbolize.
We teach about public art and other approaches to site-specific aesthetics, and we explain the implications of seeking permission to our students through examples and principles. We explain that the decision to seek permission is actually a choice as significant as the choice of color or shape in a public sculpture. And we explain that should they choose not to seek permission, they bear all the more responsibility for the work’s impact on others.
The maker of the work that disturbed many on the South Terrace last week did not seek permission. Whether that was a good choice in terms of the assignment is a matter best left to the instructor and student. What we can say for certain, however, is that the sculpture in question certainly acquired new meaning through its site. Recent events have for many associated the South Terrace not just with the whole history of protest on campus, or with a generic sense of “publicness,” but with specific black voices, calling through rallies as recently as last Wednesday for address of systemic racism and historical violence against black students. So the anonymous placement of any sculpture there would understandably be read by many as either a response to those voices, or an attempt to represent those voices.
Though the School will continue to support student experimentation of this kind, however poorly conceived, the last thing students of color need on this campus is another act to examine as a potential threat or slight. The School regrets that this interpretation of a classroom assignment contributed to the already burdensome work of black students at this critical moment for our campus. We have addressed this matter with the students and instructor involved, and apologize for how the work of one of our classes caused yet more strife for those who have borne much.
There exists a rich history of public art on this campus that more effectively facilitates discussion about rights to display and speech, both through its execution and response. If anyone wants to learn more about this area of art, you need look no further than the history of the Edgar Heap-of-Birds sculptures that existed on Nevada Street just a few years ago, only to be vandalized. (For more on that, please read here.)
We hope that many within and without the School of Art and Design will continue to freely explore how our public spaces serve to contain, constrain, or enable robust reflection and action about the sort of university we wish to be. We also hope they will do so with a close eye to implications for those feeling most vulnerable during a time of tension and controversy for this campus and others.
- Documenting Inequality Class Exhibition
Thursday, December 3, 2015
5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Krannert Art Museum, Lower level, classroom B
Reception: Link Gallery
Please visit the following websites for more information on the Documenting Inequality Class exhibition.
- Visitor Series: Vanessa Renwick, “Film Screening/Artist Talk”
Monday, October 26, 2015
Vanessa Renwick is a filmmaker who works in experimental and poetic documentary forms. Her iconoclastic work embodies her interest in landscape, the relationships between bodies and landscapes, and the permeability of borders.
Co-sponsor: Visitor Series, The Jerrold Ziff Distinguished Lecture on Modern Art
- Assistant Professor Ben Grosser in the News
University of Illinois professor seeks insight to human-computer interaction through jazz 'robot'
By The Associated PressPosted Oct. 15, 2015 at 12:30 PM
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Improvisation is at the heart of jazz and a University of Illinois researcher aims to use it to study interaction between people and increasingly intelligent computers.
The university said in a news release Wednesday that professor Ben Grosser is designing a computer system that will communicate with people through jazz improvisation. Grosser is a professor of new media.
Grosser is putting together a database of jazz solos to be analyzed. He then plans to add a system to analyze what a performer is playing in real time.
In a year he hopes to have a "robot" that will be able to listen to live music and musically respond.
Grosser doesn't anticipate the computer will be a sophisticated jazz player, but might be as good as a typical high school musician.
- Congratulations to Alumni Stacey Gross
The Illinois Art Education Association has named Stacey Gross of Centennial High School in Champaign, IL the 2015 Illinois Art Educator of the Year. This award recognizes the exemplary contributions, service and achievements of one outstanding IAEA member annually. The award will be presented at the Illinois Art Education Association Conference at the Hilton Hotel in Lisle, IL on November 6th, 2015. Ms. Gross is a resident of Champaign, Illinois.
Stacey Gross was selected for this award on the basis of her outstanding commitment to visual art education at the local, regional, and national level.
Stacey Gross is a National Board Certified Teacher at Centennial High School in Champaign where she teaches photography, graphic design, cinema studies, AP Studio Art, and dual credit classes. She also serves as the Fine Arts Department Content Area Chair. In addition, she serves as the K12 Visual Arts Coordinator for Champaign Unit School District 4. In that capacity, she acts as a liaison with administration for the art teachers in the district, organizes professional development, advocates for the visual arts, and promotes the visibility of art students and teachers. Now in her 22nd year at Centennial, Gross prides herself with creating a robust art program that fosters a broad appreciation of art and strong technical skill, while stimulating critical and creative thinking. Gross also cosponsors Centennial’s GayStraight Alliance.
Her dedication to her profession leaves a lasting impact on Dr. Judy Wiegand, Superintendent of Champaign Unit School District 4: “Time and time again, Ms. Gross has demonstrated exceptional teaching and leadership skills. Her progressive approach to teaching, coupled with her advocacy for the art program, ensures that art plays a relevant role in the high school curriculum at Centennial and throughout the district.” A Quincy native, Gross earned a MA (‘01) and BFA (‘94) in Art Education, with a studio concentration in photography, from the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign. She is a practicing artist who works primarily with cameraless darkroom photographic processes to create abstract imagery. She is an avid traveler, with a passion for Japanese art and culture.
Stacey states: “I am grateful to the Illinois Art Education Association for the honor of being recognized as the Art Educator of the Year and to those who supported my nomination, along with my colleagues, administrators, mentors and collaborators who inspire me to be the best teacher I can be and to instill a passion for art in my students. It’s especially incredible to be honored for doing what I love! It’s humbling to be singled out in a field of tremendous Art Educators, who do amazing work to bring meaningful art experiences to students in Illinois.”
The IAEA is an association of the art educators of Illinois. The organization has been serving the children and art educators of Illinois for over 75 years by providing professional development for educators through workshops, conferences, grants, exhibition opportunities, facilitating communication, promoting conditions for the effective teaching of art, and working to influence educational change and reform.