Look to student artists for new campus murals

Jacob Palmer

Packed in the middle of Austin, there’s not much wasted space on UT’s campus — buildings almost seem stacked on top of one another. Even so, there is still opportunity for growth on our campus. Think about the blank spaces on the buildings themselves. These spots across UT’s walls, halls and rooms could provide an opportunity for the University to commission murals by art students.

As laid out by the code of operating procedures, the University allocates 1 to 2 percent of costs in the Capital Improvement Project, the University’s plan for campus improvement, for the collection or commission of artwork on campus. These funds have brought in works such as “Amistad América” in Robert B. Rowling Hall or “The Color Inside” on top of the Student Activity Center, but they aren’t being used on student art. Meanwhile, Creative 40 Acres supports student art projects, but doesn’t currently list any visual art projects around campus — much less murals.

Clearly, UT values art and wants students to experience it. The University should take this one step further and let students participate in the creation of visual art on our campus. Funding student murals could be a way for the University to show its art students that it supports them.

Adrienne Sanchez, a studio art junior, says she sees a lot of talent and potential among art students, but “feel(s) like people around UT don’t really see that.” 

Murals would reach out to “people who come out to UT — prospective students, people who are donors,” Sanchez says. “I think it’d be really good for them to see the potential we have.” 

But the benefits of murals wouldn’t stop with the art school. She adds that murals “would generate conversation” about the art and its subject matters among students and other viewers. As distinctly public art, murals are for the community. Sanchez even suggests that Austin and UT history would be interesting subjects to explore in the art pieces. 

This visual art could be an important part of our campus. Austin is covered in colorful murals. From the powerful “We Rise” to the simple “I Love You So Much,” these landmarks are more than just photo ops — they contribute to the city’s culture in a visual way. As an important part of Austin, UT could reflect its own culture through student murals.

On-campus murals could take a variety of forms. They could be permanent paintings on buildings or even more temporary pieces. They could be student-led projects or part of a course in the College of Fine Arts.

This sort of project has precedent with peer institutions. UC-Berkeley and other prestigious schools such as MIT have contributed to their community and campus culture through student murals. Although not a groundbreaking change to the 40 Acres, student murals would make our campus a little brighter and a little more unique.

Giving students the ability to impact campus through murals lets UT send a clear message: Our university isn’t just a place for students to attend. UT is a place where students thrive and contribute.

Palmer is an English senior from Coppell.