Being an art major is fun. Being an art major is easy. Being an art major is fulfilling.
Scratch that. Senior Mariah Greenhoff has heard these myths about her major too many times. Her response is a public art installation in the Center for Visual Arts’ atrium, titled “Regarding the Disregarded.”
“When you walk into the atrium, you’re going to see a lot of things suspended from the ceiling, and the majority of it is going to be failed prints, failed drawings [and] smashed pottery,” she said. “It’s meaning to represent all of the unacknowledged hours that we’ve put in as art major[s]. All this stuff that’s failed is incredibly important, but it doesn’t get acknowledgement or very much credit from anyone else.”
By putting the art installation in the atrium, which is a common thoroughfare for students and faculty members alike, Greenhoff hopes to make a visible statement to those walking by.
“I love public art installations because it forces the viewer to have to look at it,” she said. “People don’t seek out art, but people walk through the atrium, so they’re forced to [see] it.”
Senior Mary Brunick and junior Rachel Johnston assisted Greenhoff with her project, staying up until 3 a.m. on the day before it was unveiled in order to finish the final product.
“I think [the installation] is very important, because I’ve heard those things, too,” Brunick said. “Just taking art classes, people are like, ‘Oh, you’re in an easy class, you don’t do anything. You never have homework.’ And it’s not true. Going and working on your painting is homework. It’s frustrating.”
Though Johnston is not an art major, she is sympathetic to the installation’s purpose.
“I was so incredibly excited [to help], because I enjoy doing creative things,” she said. “I like creative writing, and I’ve been taking journalism classes that don’t feel creative, so having some sort of creative outlet is awesome. I don’t have an eye for art, necessarily, but I appreciate it.”
Since writing is her forte, Johnston helped Greenhoff compose a statement about the installation, which can be spotted in several places among the bits of broken clay and the hanging wires.
“It’s exciting to get other majors in on [this] project, because they think of things that I don’t,” Greenhoff said. “Right away, they came up with all this great stuff that I didn’t think of.”
It was Brunick’s idea, for example, to include a continuously running clock as a representation of how much time art majors spend on projects that never come to fruition.
“The time and the money are things that a lot of people think about,” said Greenhoff. “Especially the money, because we get a very low scholarship for being an art major.”
Checks (from a closed checking account) made out to Michael’s, Hobby Lobby and Dick Blick are scattered throughout the display to represent the money spent on “lab fee[s], paper, pencils, ink,” and all the other supplies paid for out-of-pocket.
“The money is a big aspect for me,” Brunick said. “I have to work for it. I don’t have these people giving me money whenever I want, and supplies aren’t something you can sell back, like books, when you’re done with them.”
Johnston believes that the combination of the failed projects, the symbolic pieces and the statement “will be really impactful for anyone who sees it.”
Greenhoff, too, hopes that viewers will come away with the realization that majoring in art is not simply “fun,” “easy” and “fulfilling.”
“I hope they’re intrigued,” she said. “I also have some shred of hope that they’ll maybe change their thoughts about being an art major after a walk around.”