Art For Democracy's Sake
By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
September 12, 2007
On Monday, Sept. 17, students who wander into Holloway Commons will find
a big square cardboard box with the word “suggestion” stamped
in black on all four sides. Pen and paper will be nearby so people can
do just that—make a suggestion—and drop it through the slit
in the top of the box.
In the afternoon, passersby will be asked to help create a path of written
words on the walkways leading from Williamson Hall to Thompson Hall. The “Poem
Across Campus” will be created by adding a word or phrase to the
one preceding it on the asphalt.
These public art projects are being done with the help of the New York-based
group Illegal Art as part of the University Dialogue on Democracy. Founded
in 2004, Illegal Art is a collaborative of artists who aim to inspire human
connection, thought and self-reflection through interactive public art.
The group was invited to UNH to help “activate democracy.”
“The Illegal Art public art project is an amazing example of how
art can provide a training ground for democracy,” says David Kaye,
an associate professor of theater and dance. “An art event is placed
before us in a public place and demands, not to be seen for its beauty
or entertainment value, but for its sociopolitical meaning. However, this
meaning can only be revealed through the individual interpretation from
each unique person who comes across it.”
Monday’s events coincide with Constitution Day; first-year students
will receive a free pocket guide to the Constitution.
On Tuesday, the Suggestion Box project will be in the main lobby of the
MUB and in the Academic Commons of Dimond Library. A brown-bag lunch--“Sit
Here to Eat and Chat about Art and Democracy”-- will be held in Hollow
Commons hosted by Kaye and artists from Illegal Art.
Later in the day, as part of University Day, the Suggestion Box will move
outside to the lawn at T-Hall where the university picnic will be taking
place from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. The “To Do List” project, which
involves a 16-foot by 15-foot foam board where people can post notes to
a collective ‘to do’ list, will also be set up there.
Artists from Illegal Art will be at all three projects during the two-day
“I like their mission. Talking about their projects activates democracy,” says
Michele Holt-Shannon, educational program coordinator for the Discovery
Program. “It gets people thinking. If you had a to-do list for democracy,
what would be on the list? Vote? Learn about the issues? Figure out what
Kaye adds, “Because it is this intrinsic nature of art to be dissected
and closely evaluated for its possible layers of meaning, art trains us,
as viewers, to become more proficient at the act of interpretation. We
can now apply these critical skills to many disciplines and areas of thoughts
and ideas. A healthy democracy must find every way possible to cultivate
these skills in its populace. Art like this is a wonderful tool to work
towards that end.”