By Shannah Cotton, Editor
University of Maine at Farmington alumni and students created artwork prompted by class projects in different mediums for the ‘About Now’ show that celebrated UMF’s 150th year on October 9th inside and outside around Emery Community Arts Center; the show stayed up for the rest of the month and within that time eleven individual artists’ works were destroyed or dismantled as well as a group sculpture project that included work from 27 students. Pieces of artwork were found across town, carelessly thrown across the street from Merrill, or not found at all.
“The fact that some people who don’t understand contemporary art think that an uneducated opinion is validation for acting like a middle school bully is nothing short of shocking” said Kate Randall, UMF Associate Professor of Art and Curator of the ‘About Now’ show. “This is a reflection of our entire community. It is unfortunate because most of us are smarter than this, more engaged than this and far more generous.”
An email was sent out to all UMF students by Celeste Branham, Vice President of the University, on November 16th informed them of the vandalism. Another similar email followed after that and was sent to all UMF faculty on November 22nd in an effort to get them to talk about the art vandalism in their classes.
“We are a college community in which we are trying to teach everyone about respect for other people’s property, respect for others generally, and respect for the work that students undertake as part of their classroom experience” said Branham. “There is such an importance to art and artistic expression, that we don’t want anyone censoring that or squelching that or damaging that and this is what has happened”.
Mallory Smith, a senior art major at UMF, is a student who experienced extreme acts of vandalism to her work. Smith’s artwork for the show was about her grandparents passing away, also touching on the issues of homelessness and poverty. The first time any vandalizing occurred to her piece it was, “the night of the opening, during the opening” said Smith, who went out and fixed the dismantling when she saw that it had happened. “Within a week later it was dismantled again…and finally the last one was just completely plowed over. There were pieces everywhere. So it was unfixable”.
the 25th of November there was a vandalism meeting held for students and faculty that discussed what to do in the aftermath of these acts. One idea talked about in this meeting was humanization, and the problem that people aren’t seeing the works as humane. Vice President Branham ran the meeting, which jump started quickly into a large conversation, exploring ways to educate the UMF community on the value of art in our world.
Jesse Potts, new Assistant Professor of Art at UMF, teaches two beginning sculpture classes. For the class project all students were given a desk that had been discarded from the Roberts building and Ricker Addition to use in the sculpture assignment. They had to add something to the desk, subtract something, and make something to add to it. Then they combined forces and created a massive wall of desks that was displayed outside Emery on the Main street side with the desks stacked, “sort of like shish kabobs,” said Potts.
The weekend after the 150th anniversary was when the first dismantling occurred. Potts reassembled it himself, thinking it was due to the materials not being secured enough. “When I came back a few weeks later and the whole thing had been tipped over, then I was pissed off. Just because a lot of work and sweat equity from the students went into this,” said Potts. “It seems like a perfect storm of stupidity and disrespect.”
Currently there are no suspects for the culprits of the art vandalism but anyone with information is asked to contact the UMF Department of Public Safety/Campus Police at 778-7400, send an email to Brock Canton (firstname.lastname@example.org) or send a message on to the Facebook page (University of Maine at Farmington Campus Police Department).