Queen’s needs more public art

Art is rarely a priority on campus

Journal File Photo

Walking around campus, it’s clear to see our school has an embarrassing lack of public art. 

The art we have on campus is mostly confined to spaces like the Agnes Etherington Art Centre or the Union Gallery. We do have a handful of sculptures and periodic installations, but these are scattered exceptions. 

Other university campuses in Canada, like that of the University of Toronto or University of British Columbia, take noticeably more pride in displaying public art. 

For example, the University of British Columbia has a 32-page walking tour dedicated to its campus art. In contrast, a single page would suffice to detail the public art at Queen’s.  

The issue with this absence of art at Queen’s is that it makes our campus far less aesthetically pleasing and much less communal. 

Our campus layout currently serves to separate people by their faculties, filtering students into certain parts of campus. This causes people to feel at home and out of place on the same campus, depending on the building or area they’re in. 

Our campus should continue to be open and communal after the group activities and ice-breakers of frosh week — but there’s little support provided by the school once orientation ends. Many cities across the world dedicate space, time and money to ensuring their streets, parks and squares bring people together. 

More often than not, this is achieved through public art installations. 

Many are awestruck by “Cloud Gate” in Chicago, the brightly coloured “Toronto” sign brings together people from all over the city and the Louvre — a building as beautiful inside as out — is one of the most popular destinations for people from all corners of the Earth. 

More public art on Queen’s campus wouldn’t only be visually pleasing but it would also add to 

the communal feel of our school, giving students something in common beyond their education and their aspirations. Public art can be analyzed, understood and mulled over by any person who walks by the installations and sculptures. 

It’s beyond a doubt that a public art program, when well-funded, meticulously planned and properly implemented provides innumerable benefits to those who frequent a given area. 

But I understand the arguments against it. 

For one, Kingston’s harsh climate makes the enjoyment of outdoor spaces a luxury reserved to the bookends of the semester. Also, it’s a financial expenditure that never offers a discernible return on investments.  

Still, I’m not convinced that anyone truly dislikes public art or thinks it lacks value. I’ve heard many people voice negative opinions on certain pieces, like the giant cow sculpture in Markham park, but everyone can appreciate pieces they like. 

Students from all faculties can appreciate something artistic; it isn’t limited to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Art is everywhere and so we all engage with it. 

Further, the appetite for art pervades every person’s life — it’s the yin to the yang that is classes, jobs and the other pressures in life. Viewing art in outdoor spaces on campus can provide a way to relax after an exam, enjoy a date and provides a topic of discussion amongst your peers — art is something everyone and anyone can share.  

Queen’s should realize students have appetites that go beyond the dining halls in Leonard and Ban Righ. 

Our campus is beautiful, but it’s not perfect. We need to use the space we have more wisely to bring students together and bridge the gaps that form once we separate into our faculty-oriented streams after frosh week.

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