Showcase student creativity through student-commissioned art

Tanya Raghu, Columnist

Austin is renowned worldwide for its artistic flair. The city features murals, inspirational messages and frescos displayed anywhere from along the sides of highways to the entrances of restaurants. In contrast, UT’s campus is more of a natural beauty with a landscape of native vegetation, open green spaces and ornate buildings centered around the looming tower. 

While UT consistently ranks as one of the top most beautiful university campuses in Texas, it’s unfortunately missing Austin’s creative touch. UT’s campus would benefit tremendously by commissioning student art on campus. Student art would cultivate an environment rich with expression and originality. While art students contribute to the beautification of the campus, they would also benefit from showcasing their work. 

Currently, the University does not have a University wide program for commissioning students, and this needs to change. 

Art students often struggle to gain exposure for their work, and many artists strive to display their art to a public audience for recognition and compensation. The initiative would both enhance the daily experience of students, faculty, staff and visitors as they walk on campus as well as provide a platform for talented students to showcase their work. 

Studio art senior Hope Harlow is optimistic that such an initiative would better support emerging student artists like herself. 

“It’s a great way to give students exposure and give them practice in doing commissioned art,” Harlow said. “That is a really big part of being an artist and making money is doing commissions for people, businesses and different companies.” 

Most artists do not make a minimum wage due to a lack of exposure and paying clients. As UT is in a position to provide students exposure and subsidize art, the program could help jumpstart the careers of students who are looking to make art commissions a primary source of income. 

In addition, studies have shown that displaying student art in classrooms can cultivate a community of artists, increase motivation, encourage inclusiveness and lead to feelings of empowerment. 

The University’s public art program, Landmarks, has installed over 50 works of modern and contemporary art on campus that are accessible throughout various parts of the 433-acre campus. While the program makes prominent and acclaimed pieces of art accessible to the public, it lacks the familiarity of viewing art with themes local to Texas that can be better communicated by student artists. 

Andrée Bober, founder and director of Landmarks, shared insight into the state of student-commissioned art on campus. 

“I am not aware of a process on campus for student commissioned art,” Bober said in an email. “(The College of Fine Arts and the School of Architecture) have channels for student made projects to be exhibited publicly at their facilities. I’m no expert, but I’ve gathered that paying students in this way jeopardizes their financial aid standing, so commissioning students is complicated at best.” 

While determining financial aid is a complex process, the University must do more to make such opportunities accessible to its art students who could greatly benefit by gaining name recognition, exposure and clients. Students shouldn’t have to compromise on their financial aid while finding opportunities to gain more professional exposure as artists. 

The initiative could begin by temporarily displaying exhibits to gauge the reactions and thoughts of students. If received positively, it could be transitioned into a full fledged program in partnership with the College of Fine Arts and Facilities Planning and Management. Ultimately, students will feel a stronger sense of community and comfort in an environment shaped and created with fellow students in mind. 

Raghu is a Plan II, Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic senior from Coppell, Texas.