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'Take back the RC' results in new East Quad art agreement

By Michael Sugerman, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 3, 2014

Last semester, a small group of students in the Residential College, one of East Quad Residence Hall’s learning communities, wrote a quote on the white wall of the building’s basement. When maintenance staff painted over the “mural,” a movement started: “Take Back the RC” — an effort to assert student ownership of the learning community.

The movement was strong enough to elicit a response from the RC’s administration, members of which met with students in mid-April to discuss solutions to the problem.

Now, that solution has arrived in the form of a four-page document titled “Art in East Quad: Policies and Procedures.” Drafted during the summer, the guide requires any resident of East Quad — not just the RC — to propose public art projects to a new arts coordinator, who will help to evaluate available space and potential maintenance concerns before approving potential works.

The document encourages students to consult with the coordinator early during the fall semester, though additional requests may be accepted on a rolling basis.

The criteria for artwork will include “contribution to the educational purposes of the University,” in addition to its “aesthetic quality” and “relative uniqueness,” among other factors.

RC Acting Director Charles Bright, who worked with University Housing to draft the new policy, said it is the best of both worlds — combining the priorities of dorm residents with projects potentially generated through art classes housed in East Quad.

“Truth be told, people need to own the spaces they live in,” Bright said. “They need to feel that those spaces are theirs.”

“To own the space is to be able to put something on the wall, but the wall itself is shared. It has to be somehow negotiated through.”

LSA junior Kerry Fingerle, a student in the RC and one of the leaders of the “Take Back the RC” movement, said the policy is promising, but only time will tell whether or not it is effective.

“I think it’s great that they’re talking about how to get student work onto the walls,” Fingerle said. “It’s a little premature to even speculate on it because there hasn’t been a mural submitted yet. Just because something was written on paper … how it plays out could be pretty different.”

LSA junior Amanda Nelson, also an RC student and “Take Back the RC” leader, stressed that better communication will be essential to increasing student awareness of the new policy and encouraging submissions.

“I think this was posted once on a Facebook page,” Nelson said. “And I don’t believe it’s been made easily accessible to students, especially Residential College freshmen. And I think that’s an integral part … to let students know the opportunities that they have.”


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