Last spring, an open invitation from campus administrators encouraged students to freely decorate the tunnel underneath Tutt Library; however, it quickly became an array of slanderous chaos. This resulted in a suspension of the project and the concealment of the tunnel’s façade.
“Facilities started finding graffiti on buildings and sidewalks,” said Student Life Specialist Bethany Grubbs.
Despite the requests to all students to respect the boundaries of the new venue for artistic expression, graffiti spread outside of the tunnel to the buildings and sidewalks. The administration saw the extraneous graffiti as vandalism and deemed the project unsuccessful.
The issue of designating a space for open creativity is not new to the Campus Activities staff.
“There was a contest where students submitted ideas that were approved by a committee and the art in the tunnel then stayed up for a few years,” said Associate Dean of Students Rochelle Mason.
Almost 10 years ago, former art student Collin Hu led a group of peers in a commissioned project to memorialize the tragedy of 9/11. Both Mason and Grubbs recall this particular mural as significant.
Following the 9/11 mural, the administration commissioned vibrant ants to be painted by art students in the walls of the tunnel. These ants were painted over before last spring’s initiative to turn the tunnel into a space for open expression.
Grubbs said, “I don’t believe we were clear enough in presenting [the idea], and people took advantage” of the leniency the project offered. She said the school is not opposed to using this tunnel as a space for artistic demonstration.
In the future, the procedure for students to paint the tunnel will involve a formal proposal. The administration is reverting to past policies to ensure future murals fall within the parameters of the project and that the content is appropriate.
The past murals serve as a reminder to both Mason and Grubbs that the space has potential to be a beautiful venue for students’ art on campus.
“I think it would be worth revisiting as a space for a mural contest,” Mason said.
Grubbs expressed interest in collaborating with the art department to explore ideas for a commissioned mural.
“We would be happy to reach out to the art department to coordinate another contest,” she said. “However, we would have to make future art projects much more structured and give the projects appropriate oversight.”
Art Department professor Carl Reed believes that the lack of uniform campus design at CC is a chance for students to artistically capture the spirit of the Rocky Mountain setting.
“At this time there seems to be no coherent, overarching campus design direction at CC,” Reed said. “As a result, one can view the situation as an exciting free-for-all with different individuals approving or initiating projects that reflect their personal tastes, and thereby symbolizing the rugged individualism that ‘won the West.’”
For now, the administration is putting the failed freewheeling expression behind them and is looking forward to a future of rich and regulated immortalization of student work.