For a college with a rich tradition in the visual and performing arts, Southwestern College is woefully short on art. Some ambitious students hope to change that.
“There is not a lot of art on campus,” said Alejandra De Hoyos, secretary of the Art Club. “If you look around there are a few sculptures, but they blend in.”
Art is lightly sprinkled around campus willy-nilly, with no theme, focus or explanation, she said. Most students and visitors do not know that some pieces are valued at more than $1 million.
Most passersby are in the dark about “Dark,” a largely unknown conceptual sculpture that appears to be a chunk of steel found in the gallery courtyard. Artist Bruce Nauman created the controversial piece, which was acquired by Southwestern College in 1968 for $1,900. SWC has received offers to sell it in excess of $1.3 million.
De Hoyos said it is sad SWC’s art is so low-keyed.
“We need more visual art so students can be inspired,” she said.
Art Club members are partnering up with the English department to design a mural to be mounted on one of the English buildings. Although they have received funds from the ASO and the SWC Foundation to help with project costs, they still need approval from the governing board. Artists will aspire to capture the diverse lives of the student body and promote creativity, literacy and cultural awareness.
Nikko Mueller, co-advisor of the Art Club, said members want a mural that is inclusive.
“We want to focus on making something that is not too Eurocentric,” he said. “We want to really represent the diversity of voices that are out there. We want to make sure that the mural speaks to the community, for students to see themselves in the faces and words.”
Diego Rivera, Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco—known as Los Tres Grandes—sparked the Mexican Muralism movement that popularized the outdoor paintings as a powerful form of political and social art. Murals are an essential form of artistic expression in Mexico, often controversial, always symbols of hope, freedom and solidarity.
Art Club President Sarah Barlow said she wants the murals to inspire unity.
“A public work, many times, is a group effort which brings the community together,” she said.
Chicano Park and its murals have become a locus for Mexican-Americans to come together and celebrate the beauty of their culture.
Mueller said he believes murals are essential component of cohesive society.
“Murals help the spaces feel more human, alive and vibrant and show what our values are as a community,” he said “I think it is a very special thing for art to be able to do.”
Barlow said Art Club members hope the mural will represent students.
“I would like to see it as positive,” said Barlow. “How we can all come together and move forward together in a way that brings people together? It’s too easy to be about what you are against, but it needs to be about what you are for.”
De Hoyos said that she hopes the mural will help bring people together.
“There is a problem at Southwestern College with people not being as open as they should be because they are thinking about getting out of here, which is strange,” she said. “Why not make friends and enjoy the moment?”