Bare Red Walls and Grey Concrete an NDSU Dilemma

North Dakota State is home to many great artists. So why on Earth isn’t there more art on campus?

Our campus is uncomfortably bare of art. It isn’t uncommon to find corners, uncomfortable corners, where the only color is red brick and gray concrete.

ERIK JONASSON II | THE SPECTRUM
Reineke’s boring red walls.

Take Reineke for instance. Reineke is bland, square, red brick. Nothing screams art.

Which is ironic since that is our Fine Arts Center. Shouldn’t it scream art? Bland architecture doesn’t mean we can’t put a mural on it though.

What about a community art project center? A place where stressed out college students could participate in an art collaboration for the entire campus?

Our campus is beautiful but we can always improve.

It isn’t hard to think of locations that are bare of anything. Where the most aesthetically pleasing object is a bike rack.

ERIK JONASSON II | THE SPECTRUM
The Peace Garden sitting location.

I am thinking of the Peace Garden location west of the Memorial Union. This location has more viable outdoor space arguably than any location on campus. Yet few choose to sit there.

Granted, during winter and early spring the grass isn’t present. Without the grass, it is hard to imagine why anyone would choose to sit there though. Why not add a sculpture there?

ERIK JONASSON II | THE SPECTRUM The “Bent” of Tau Beta Phi, and engineering honor society.

What about the engineering college? Other than a weird bench and the “Bent” of Tau Beta Pi statue there is no art.

Rather there is just a concrete circle building with four boxes encompassing it, nothing interesting and nothing unique.

ERIK JONASSON II | THE SPECTRUM
The chair in front of the engineering administration building.

That is our engineering college. Engineering is an amazing field, shouldn’t our college reflect the major in some way?

No art in front of Sudro Hall. No art in common areas like the wellness center.

Why not change that? We could — and we should.

Why not a mural dedicated to Midwest artists? Prince or Bob Dylan perhaps. What about distinguished alum?

We have the artists and Reineke offers an amazing canvas.

The power of having a mural, the power of having public art available for all students to participate in is powerful. It would set our campus apart. It is not an accident that the most beautiful and photogenic areas on campus are those coupled with art and nice architecture.

ERIK JONASSON II | THE SPECTRUM
The classic “Bison” photo for NDSU.

Think about the Bison Statue. Minard and South Engineering surround it. This is arguably the most photogenic part of campus. With the bridge and the old style architecture of South Engineering and Minard it is easy to understand why.

It is also understandable why we don’t flip the camera and take a picture of the library. Bland. The library offers no art, and no fancy architecture. Again, while it is a great building to work in, it doesn’t demand admiration. No one takes their parents to the library. No one tells their friends from another college, “Hey, I have to show you the library.”

What about the mental health impact? College requires so much planning. So many scripted moments. You must take this class, or you must graduate in four years. You have to get an internship and be involved in several clubs.

Art doesn’t have that though. Participating in art allows students to forget about the books. Forget about requirements and GPA for just a moment.

Who cares what you think about an art piece. It is your own personal experience. You have the freedom.

There is a future for NDSU. That is a university that is larger. That is a campus that caters to more students from more vastly different locations.

Cultivate culture. Cultivate more space for art. Allow students to take more pride in their campus. Have unique art that can be collected over the decades.

Not a single student is going to care about a red-bricked building. No student is going to point to a boxy building and exclaim, “That is my college.”

Provide the art and that will change.

Now art isn’t going to take over the campus next semester, but we can start now and invest in a sense of pride for future generations of bison.

We have a beautiful campus. But it is hard to ignore there are boring parts. Art can change that quickly.

 

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