Campus News

'Where We Stand': DEI Project 13

Photo of a woman smiling.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Officer Advance Day. Arden Barnes | UK Photo.

Throughout the upcoming months, UK will highlight each of the projects under its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), including the work they are currently doing across campus and what they hope to achieve in the future. To follow along, search ‘Where We Stand’ on UKNow.  

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 25, 2022) — Starting in the fall of 2020, the University of Kentucky began a new chapter in its journey to become a more diverse and equitable campus. 

Against the backdrop of increased racial turmoil and a global pandemic, UK President Eli Capilouto announced a comprehensive, collaborative 17-project Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Plan. Designed to empower agents of change, embolden existing DEI efforts and introduce additional initiatives to engage more of the community in this work, this plan has ignited a holistic overhaul to the university's approach to advancing diversity at UK.

Since 2020, project leads and the members of each of the 17 project teams within the DEI Implementation Plan have worked diligently to set the groundwork for what is to become a roadmap to inclusive excellence. 

Motivated by a continual commitment to reflection and renewal, Project 13: Create a DEI Art Fund for Capital Projects, c0-led by Melody Flowers, executive director for strategic analysis and policy, and Mark Shanda, dean of the College of Fine Arts and professor of theatre and dance, has made significant progress. 

The goal of this project is to acquire, install and celebrate diverse and inclusive public art on the university’s campus to enhance a sense of place and belonging. Diverse and inclusive represents a commitment to meet or exceed the diversity of our community in all aspects of the committee’s work – from the selection of artists and works to representation within the committee itself.

Beginning in the spring 2023 semester, Project 13 will begin a campuswide inventory of existing public art, Shanda explained. Master of Fine Arts in Curatorial Studies graduate student Sydney Mullins will be leading the inventory effort, under the mentorship of Professor Anna Brzyski, director of the Curatorial Studies program and senior lecturer Becky Alley, gallery director in the School of Art and Visual Studies. 

Additionally, a service-learning course is being developed and will be offered beginning in the spring of 2023. The goal of the course is to teach process and empower survey teams to search the campus for any objects of public art on display in both exterior and interior spaces. Leveraging the talents of the university's Information Technology Services, an extant software used to capture environmental quality concerns on campus will be adapted to enable the art inventory. The software will help efficiently collect photos, data and precise geographic locations of the university's current public art.

Available records of public art located in spaces like the UK Libraries and the Gatton Student Center will also be integrated into this comprehensive inventory. Once this baseline is established, the committee will analyze current holdings and identify diversity strengths, challenges and opportunities for investment. This will focus the projected investment of Project 13 funding and the anticipated impact on campus. 

“The commitment to diverse and inclusive public art, financially as well as through the time and talents of so many people across the campus, underscores both the importance of the work and the sense of urgency brought to it,” Flowers said. “The university has made tremendous progress in recent years; however, as a university, we have much more work to do in becoming an institution that is inclusive in all we do.”

Together, we are finding ways to answer the challenge that we have been called to grapple with — bringing the prospect of hope and healing, reckoning and reconciliation, to this generation and to those who will follow. 

For more information on the university's diversity and inclusion efforts, visit the DEI website. To learn more about Project 13 and its effort, click here. The DEI website is home to information about DEI-related resources available to faculty, staff and students; events and organizations; news and campus messages; and updates on DEI efforts around campus.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.