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February 4, 2004

 

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Workplace panel issues report

The panel looking for ways to make Carolina a better place to work has finished its report, which will be presented to the campus community at a Feb. 5 meeting. ...

Trustees approve tuition proposal

University trustees, before voting, said they understood that raising tuition is never easy or popular. But raising out-of-state tuition closer to true market value is the only way they can raise badly needed revenue while, at the same time, remaining faithful to the state constitution's mandate to provide a university education to North Carolinians at a low cost....

Artful dodging

Sandra Neely's is one of 10 murals that will make campus construction more fun to navigate. ...

 

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Artful dodging

Sandra Neely's is one of 10 murals that will make campus construction more fun to navigate

Construction of an arts corridor on the Carolina campus may still be in the planning stage, but in the next few weeks a temporary arts corridor of a different breed will emerge amid the campus construction.

As an antidote to the giant Erector Set that the once-pastoral campus has become, sophomore biology major Rebecca Chasnovitz envisioned art. She teamed up with Casey Molino Dunn, a senior music major, and the two came up with the idea of "Art Below the Cranes" -- an installation of 10 big murals to be mounted in the coming weeks on the Rams Head construction fences.

As Dunn tells it, it was "Chasnovitz's daily trips past the Rams Head construction area" that gave her the inspiration. "Anyone who lives on South Campus," he said, "knows that the trek from Morrison to the center of campus is not always the most attractive."

The two became members of the newly created Arts Advocacy Committee of Student Government last fall, and with the support of Dean Bresciani, interim vice chancellor for student affairs, and some financial support by way of student fees allocated by Student Congress, the idea for a series of murals took shape.


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"It goes without saying that one of the most unsightly aspects of construction projects is the fencing," Bresciani said. "With so many construction projects going on at once, the impact has become somewhat overwhelming ... and not in a good way! This project takes advantage of that challenge, though, and uses it as an opportunity to make the campus more interesting during this transition period."

A call for entries went out to campus and the surrounding community, and by the end of November, 10 sketches had been approved, and 6-foot by 9-foot panels of canvas were cut and subsequently doled out.

One of those canvases made its home in Sitterson Hall, and Sandra Neely spent 80 hours working her way across it, beginning with the application of three coats of gesso primer before painstakingly transforming her tabula rasa into a visitor's guide in graffiti for the Carolina campus and the state beyond.

She inked a literal "chapel on the hill" in the center, and using acrylics, markers, watercolor, charcoal and pastels painted her way out from there. There are the familiar local landmarks: the Bell Tower, planetarium sundial and rose garden, and the Old Well.

From there she chose what Julie Andrews might have called "a few of my favorite things": Christmas tree in the west ("Where they're grown," Neely said) and the Tweetsie Railroad steaming its way down from the mountains, its track forming a pleasing path for the eye to follow. In the east are seashells and all of the state's lighthouses. There's a smorgasbord of state fair food (cotton candy and candy apples) nestled next to student fare (hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza).

The poignant has its place, too. One lone red hybrid rose, named "The Firefighter," provides a memorial when juxtaposed next to the Statue of Liberty and the Twin Towers.


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The schematic becomes more compressed but orderly, too, in the right-hand maze that represents computer science and many of its faculty, staff, students and their projects. One book stands out. Suggested by the department chair, Stephen Weiss, it's a copy of "Computer Architecture," written by Kenan Professor Frederick Brooks, who founded the department in 1964.

When a visitor listens to Neely describing the elements of her mural, it's evident that its inspiration was a community project, just like her art has always been in Sitterson.

Neely has been an accounting technician with computer science for close to two years, but from the time she started doodling smiley faces onto paper towels while she made the department's morning coffee, her talent for art in addition to numbers has become well known.

Somehow those smiley faces on the paper towels segued into cartoon characters, and then the cartoon characters started appearing on real paper. It wasn't long before a cartoon-a-day became as ritualistic as the morning coffee, and now a formal list is posted near the coffee pot with official requests for specific cartoons. Neely will get around to those in due time, once she's recovered from the stress of finishing her mural.


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She took classes in commercial art for a year at Alamance Community College before deciding on course work elsewhere that promised a more stable financial future. And now? She's seriously thinking about going back and working on a degree in studio art.

Once mounted, the Rams Head murals are scheduled to remain in place for about three months, and then they'll be returned to their artists. And will the rest of the campus's construction fences go unadorned? Bresciani said, "This is a pilot project, but virtually everyone, from administration through the faculty, staff and students on the Building and Grounds Advisory Committee, are aware of and supporting it, and hopefully the project proves successful so it can be expanded to other locations around campus."

If it weathers its time outdoors, Neely's mural will be going back home, too -- back to Sitterson Hall, that is, where every nuance, every symbol and every pixel are appreciated by her computer science co-workers.

 

Who are the artists?

In addition to Neely, Tracy Woodard, who works in respiratory therapy in UNC Hospitals, has worked on a mural, and Chasnovitz -- who came up with the idea -- has created one on behalf of Student Government's Arts Advocacy Committee. The rest of the installation will be comprised of submissions by:

Chapel Hill High School art classes;

Mansoor Omar, a student at Chapel Hill High School;

Katie Hutchins, submitted on behalf of Chispa, the Carolina Hispanic Association;

Bonny Blackard, a freshman biology major;

Erin Fornoff, a senior anthropology major;

Emily Ann Rubin, a senior English major; and

Sumeet Banker, submitted on behalf of SANGAM, the South Asian awareness organization.

 

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