Engagement with art enhances undergraduate experience

Emily Severe

For freshmen, getting involved on campus can be a daunting proposition. To supplement their experience and education, students should look to art — a resource the University has in abundance — for reflection and avenues of involvement. Access to a diverse collection and opportunities provided by a variety of programs and institutions allows students to become well-rounded and better prepared for life beyond the 40 Acres.

Well-known works like Nancy Rubins’ “Monochrome for Austin,” a sculpture made of canoes that overlooks the intersection of Speedway and 24th, command the attention of passerby and make a name for UT’s public art collection. Rubins’ work was commissioned by Landmarks, a program that seeks to enhance the student experience through the University’s
public art collection.

This program doesn’t just supply the art, they have a variety of volunteer opportunities for students to get involved. By looking to the source, students will be able to engage with their community in new ways that will help them explore their creativity and seek a well-rounded education.

There’s more to art on campus than meets the eye — a self-portrait by Frida Kahlo is tucked away inside of the Harry Ransom
Center and the bones of a new Ellsworth Kelly exhibit rest on the Blanton Museum of Art’s lawn. To truly take advantage of the opportunity for personal growth that art has to offer, students should also look to the pieces that are members of diverse collections across campus.

The Blanton has thousands of pieces in their collection, ranging from drawings and prints to looming sculptures, many of which are available to students for study. The Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum, provides students with opportunities for reflection and growth through internships and volunteer work as well as access to an extensive archive.

Finally, students can explore their own creativity and engage with their community by getting to know local artists — that is, art students. Students work to produce art and help curate campus collections that are available to peers during art shows and special presentations.

Art provides a vital means of connection with other human beings and prompts creativity, a valuable trait for undergraduates, by encouraging students to reflect and think critically. Everyone benefits from making and viewing art, from elementary schools including art in their curriculum to promote development to medical schools teaching students to look to art to learn empathy. Undergraduate students, especially incoming freshmen who are experiencing growth and independence for the first time, can engage with art to great personal and educational advantage.

The University affords students the opportunity to work closely with art, to have access to expertise and to connect with peers outside of majors and programs. While the canoes leave their mark, the true benefit of engagement won’t be realized
until students embrace opportunities like internships and volunteering, make an effort to engage with archived collections and encourage peers to do more than simply look and walk by.

Severe is a Business Honors junior from Round Rock.