The newly constructed addition to the Museum of Modern Art on the corner of State Street and South University has considerably changed the aesthetic panorama of Central Campus. Growing up 20 miles from Ann Arbor, the view facing east from State Street always came to mind when I thought of the University of Michigan. Angell Hall, with its enormous width and towering Roman columns, looked like it’d been slammed down in its place by some giant. The trees, some of them older than my grandparents, spoke to the stability and history of the campus.

But the new addition to the Museum of Modern Art doesn’t fit in with my vision of the University. The straight lines, right angles, walls of glass and slabs of concrete seem architecturally at odds not only with the classic buildings which surround much of the Diag, but also with the original Museum of Modern Art.

Initially, I was disgusted by the costly museum addition. On top of the issues I had with the incongruity of the building, it transformed a grassy, shaded area of the Diag into an enormous concrete walkway. “Why don’t we just lay concrete over the entire Diag?” I thought. Out with natural settings, in with modern design. Those 80 year-old trees were so 20th century. I figured the addition to the Museum of Modern Art would end up being the new Dennison — a true WTF moment in University history.

Passing by the construction site last fall, staring up at two stories of horizontal concrete slabs, I had an idea. Maybe the University could put something on those walls. The University removed all the grass, trees and dirt (color), and replaced them with huge slabs of clean, cut concrete (gray). Why so serious? Why so austere? Isn’t this Ann Arbor, the liberal mecca of the Midwest? Aren’t there students at this institution artistically skilled enough to transform these gray walls into something beautiful?

Of course, the University has the right to classify whatever it likes as art. If it says three large, metal support beams painted orange and bolted together is art, so be it. But what statement is the University making when the art it chooses starts more conversations regarding the definition of art than the value or beauty of the piece? My guess is that the University is saying, “We’re all about theory here at Michigan.”

But the sculptures are fine. They’re unique and they add at least a little bit of color to an otherwise drab part of campus. They’re also highly conceptual, so I’m not surprised that their design goes over my head.

But how about adding something with a little bit of culture, something that perhaps a few more students on campus could relate to? Something a little less stuffy, or maybe even something the students of the University have some say in? I know the perfect place for it. There’s a horizontal rectangle of concrete on the north wall of the museum addition that would accommodate either one large mural or many small ones. It can be aesthetically modern, since that’s all the University feels like building lately. Abstract? Go for it. It could be anything, as long as it adds some color.

The University should hold a competition for student artists (or those in the community) for the opportunity to paint that enormously boring wall. The price of said competition? Cheap. The University pays for materials and that’s it. Cheaper than a single bright orange support beam, I bet. Another perk of the mural idea — it could be changed. Every semester, year or decade, the competition is held again, and a brand new mural goes up for people to examine, talk and argue about.

Allow students to have some creative control over how their environment is aesthetically changed. Why not allow some artistically gifted students to display their genius and become voices in the way our University evolves and changes? The University has an opportunity to give students the artistic license to create whatever they like out of a boring campus building. What’s more modern and progressive than that?

Eliot Johnson is an LSA senior.

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