Sunday, April 29, 2012

Art tasting

The end of the semester means service projects come to fruition in Honors classes. I've been kept hopping by documentary filmmakers and student researchers all swirling around the topic of public art. My freshman class used a mural painted by a student as a thesis project in their residence hall as a jumping-off point for a public education campaign and opinion polling about campus art in general.


We gathered the night before the event for all the prep. An essential element to any campus event, I've discovered, is the banner -- projected onto a bedsheet to trace the outline, then painted on by enthusiastic student artists.


Our concept was to exchange homebaked treats for responses to a quick 1-minute survey. The idea came about when my initial questionnaire of class skills revealed that eight of fourteen class members were bakers.


Even the best ideas need a helping hand. A class member's mom contributed these unsolicited and totally awesome cakepops in our theme colors.


Theme, you ask? Yes indeed. I don't consider a project really graspable or executable until we have a name that provides the core idea and the driving force. A student came up with SweetARTS, and two others designed this incredible logo, playing off the iconic SweeTarts brand.


We passed out specially-designed informational flyers with surveys attached at various locations on campus associated with public art -- the university's art gallery, the sports complex that houses mascot statuary, the library whose walls are lined with donated collections, near prominent outdoor sculptures -- and asked recipients to come to Alumni Circle, the campus's historic heart and the site of a much-ballyhooed but unfortunately abandoned public art installation a few years ago, to submit them.


The surveys (approved by our institutional review board) used pictures to assess the respondent's familiarity with outdoor sculpture on campus, and asked a few questions about the value and priority the respondent would place on campus art collections.


We were hoping to collect 100 surveys during the three hours of our public event. Community members stuffed this box with 316.


Respondents also were invited to paint or leave handprints on a temporary art wall at the Alumni Circle site.


It seems strangely appropriate that two random passersby snuck into our group photo. After all, our project was all about getting people walking through campus thinking about the art around them, and amplifying their voices. Kudos to the SweetARTS team for an amazing project!

You can follow the project results by liking our SweetARTS page on Facebook. There we'll share the full project report, including the research students did into public art and campus examples, and the results from our SweetARTS mini-survey, as well as a focus group and survey on the large mural installed as a student thesis project in the Honors residence hall last year and on opinions about the place of art within the Honors living-learning community.

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