UT should provide more spaces for student art to be displayed

Paige Ruder

The walk from my dorm room to my car is fairly dull. I always pass by the same “landmarks” — a tattered orange rag on the ground leftover from the UT vs. LSU game, broken glass that’s been there for at least a couple of weeks. I don’t enjoy looking at them.

UT students produce more than just trash. There’s an entire visual arts department full of students who create amazing artwork. The addition of semi-permanent displays around campus dedicated to showcasing student artwork would add expression and culture to the campus and provide art students an opportunity to show their work to a wider audience.

UT is well on its way to achieving this, but there’s more that could be done. The Visual Arts Center has various student and faculty-led projects in place dedicated to displaying student artwork. However, these projects are mostly limited to displaying work within specific locations, such as outside the center. With more support, though, they might be able to showcase student art all over campus.

The Fieldwork Projects, a Visual Arts Center program, currently works to display student art. With this program, faculty and students may work together to prepare formal exhibitions, such as the recent photography exhibition featuring work done by students who participated in the Learning Tuscany study abroad program. Expanding this program would be a step in the right direction.

“These short-term projects rotate every few weeks, so there is always something new to come back and see,” Clare Donnelly, gallery manager at the Visual Arts Center, said via email. This ongoing process of periodically featuring new artists is exactly what could be emulated campuswide to make artwork more accessible to the typical student.

Lauren Macknight, the public affairs coordinator for Department of Art and Art History, said if the center were to expand the Fieldwork Projects to showcase student art all over campus, they would most likely have to coordinate with individual building managers. This would be well worth it as student artists would get the opportunity they need to promote their work to a broader audience.

Two vital components to any successful art career, especially one built from the ground up, are exposure and support. Giving student artists a more extensive platform for their work allows the student body to better familiarize themselves with both the work and the artist. One word students often hear is networking, but this doesn’t always mean directly working with someone on the same project. At its most basic form, it’s a connection, one that can be made by simply acknowledging each other’s work. 

Think of the art pieces you see on campus everyday: Littlefield Fountain, “The Family Group” in front of the McCombs building or “The Torchbearers” by the Flawn Academic Center. Even if you are unaware of their names, you probably remember what they look like and may even remember a bit of trivia about them. 

Now imagine if there were spots all over campus specifically for displaying student artwork. Every day on their way to class, students would recognize specific works by their peers, bringing artists validation and establishing UT as a campus full of diverse talents. These displays don’t have to dominate the scenery — just a stand for the work to sit on could suffice, so long as the work is protected and visible. 

It’s time for UT to show its pride in student artists by allowing them the opportunity to display their work where other students may see it. Making their work visible brings much benefit to both the creator and the viewer with little downside.

It wouldn’t require much effort aside from dancing around some red tape. It’s up to UT to decide whether they want to give student artists that stage.

Ruder is a political communications freshman from Frisco, Texas.