LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 12, 2017) — In recent years, University of Kentucky has been the site of several important discussions on inclusion of all members of campus and what makes it a more welcoming community.
One part of this conversation at Kentucky has centered on a mural located in Memorial Hall, a popular campus landmark. This 1934 fresco, completed by Lexington-born artist and UK art alumna Ann Rice O’Hanlon, was made possible on campus by the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) established in 1933 during the Great Depression. O’Hanlon’s work and other PWAP projects were part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and marked the first time in history a federal government program supported art on a national level.
O’Hanlon’s mural has stirred a range of responses over time. On one hand, it is recognized as a unique document of a time in U.S. history when the government engaged artists to create ambitious acts of American storytelling. On the other, some argue that the mural misrepresents and sanitizes the imagery of the time it depicts. In doing so, it failed to declare the immorality of slavery and instead minimized the violence and inhumanity that many experienced through subjugation and slavery.
Times have changed and in important ways progress has been made, but the debate about racial climate — on the UK campus and across the country — continues.
Through Sept. 1, 2017, the Memorial Hall Art Committee and the UK Office of the President will solicit submissions from Kentucky-based artists (or collaborating artists) with ties to the Commonwealth (born in Kentucky but live elsewhere, UK alumni, etc.) to create artworks to be installed in two vaulted spaces measuring 13 feet high by 8 feet wide located in the vestibule of Memorial Hall.
“The possibility of contemporary art helping to reshape the experience of Memorial Hall and the O’Hanlon mural is very exciting. We are committed to a thoughtful process of solicitation and selection, and a result that engages our campus and community in active learning and shared values,” said Committee Co-Chairs Terry Allen and Stuart Horodner.
In commissioning these new artworks, the committee seeks to re-imagine the challenge taken up by O'Hanlon in 1934: to depict Kentucky's evolution from a frontier state to a modern Commonwealth. Contemporary artists are invited to interpret the complex realities of Kentucky and the United States today.
The committee seeks works which will:
- engage issues of history, race, identity, culture and diversity;
- exemplify a strong concept and skillful use of materials; and
- contribute to an inclusive educational environment.
The budget for the work(s) is $30,000.
For more information about this commission and to submit a proposal go to: www.uky.edu/president/memorial_hall_call_to_artists.
Memorial Hall, located in UK’s central campus, was built in 1929 as a memorial to those who died in World War I. It is used for numerous academic classes, lectures and public events and is visited by more than 50,000 people annually.
The final selection for Memorial Hall will be made by Nov. 15, 2017, following a public viewing of proposals. Projected completion of the artwork is summer 2018.
More information on this call to artists and/or historic details relating to Memorial Hall and the O’Hanlon mural, can be found online at www.uky.edu/president/memorialhall.
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