Justin Guiffré: Decorate GW with student art

Coming to GW 4 years ago, I didn’t realize I would gain an appreciation for our school’s art program and all of the galleries only a short walk or Metro ride away from campus.

Flash forward to today, and I’ve realized that GW could be utilizing its creative potential to solve one of its perennial complaints.

I have heard students and visitors say that GW’s campus is ugly. Walking the bland corridors of Monroe Hall and the borderline decrepit hallways of the Academic Center, I’m often inclined to agree. A solution occurred to me while walking past Classroom 102 – the small gallery room on the first floor of Smith Hall. GW should purchase the student artwork to help beautify the campus, build a sense of community amongst students and give some much needed attention to the arts at a school where politics are king.

Basically, the University can create a fund that would be used to purchase especially well-done artwork by students. The artwork would be framed and displayed around campus for 2 to 3 years before being replaced by fresh pieces. This rotation would keep the artwork fresh and allow students to see artwork produced by their contemporaries on campus on a daily basis.

This would be great for art students as well. They could make some extra money from their work while still in school and gain the visibility of having their creations hung on campus. Of course, the choice to sell any piece would be up to the individual student, but it isn’t an unheard of process. The Brady Collection occasionally purchases artwork for the University’s collection, and at times, students make long term loans to University offices. And, although artwork is never a sure sell, the University could seek to replenish the fund by selling the student artwork after its few years on display. It’s not hard to imagine that at some point while being displayed for a few years in an academic hallway, a professor or student might be drawn to a piece that they would eventually like to own.

There are a few obvious caveats here that shouldn’t be overlooked. I would never want to equate artwork with decoration, nor foster a fine arts program in which students are just looking to sell their work. Art comes in many forms.

It just so happens that a lot of the artwork produced here is both quality and could be used in a way to turn our drab hallways into something interesting, and (hopefully) at times provocative. Why not take advantage of that opportunity? Another truth is the complaints I hear come in part from the fact that we have some externally ugly buildings on campus, which this wouldn’t address at all.

One of my favorite quotes on art comes from Ray Bradbury, “So while our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.” Maybe this could be adjusted for GW: “While art cannot save us from exams, Thurston’s filth, 8 a.m. classes, hangovers or a failed assignment, it can revitalize us amidst it all.” GW should consider making this investment, creating not only a more beautiful campus but one that actively seeks to keep itself contemporary, transitive and flush with the work of its own students.

Justin Guiffré, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet senior columnist.

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