Sandra Neely's is one of 10 murals that will
make campus construction more fun to navigate
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.
"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.
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.
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?
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;
submitted on behalf of Chispa, the Carolina Hispanic Association;
a freshman biology major;
Erin Fornoff, a
senior anthropology major;
Emily Ann Rubin,
a senior English major; and
submitted on behalf of SANGAM, the South Asian awareness