All in the eye of the beholder

Story by Abbi Racine, Culture Editor
Photo courtesy of MLive

Water damage, cheap paint, and an unfinished, ambiguous message. That is what I see on the walls when I make my multiple commutes through the Wege tunnel on a weekly basis, usually in pursuit of french fries from the Corner Cafe.

When the walkway mural was originally sketched and then painted, I, as a student, was intrigued and excited by the message the 40 foot wall conveyed. It’s once vibrant colors suggested diversity and it aesthetically filled up a blank space. Now neglected a year later, it’s just sad looking.

I can only imagine what visitors to our campus see as ambassadors showcase our university to prospective students and parents, as they walk through our underground hall.

In a recent survey I had posted on social media via Twitter and Facebook, I found I was not the only student who felt this way about the artwork, which former Aquinas student Simion Guenther had begun in the last academic year and it attracted media attention, including an article featured on MLive.

The poll was open for two days and had 84 responses. In the survey, there were four options to select from: A.) Loathe the art B.) Love the art C.) Why isn’t it finished? D.) Let’s redo it!

Six participants claimed to loathe the art; 14 people loved it; 39 asked why it wasn’t completed; and 25 expressed the desire for it to be finished. This survey allowed participants to leave anonymous comments as well, and this proved that there was strong feelings across the board.

“The idea was great, and I like what he did with a lot of the art, but there are so parts of it that are just creepy,” said one survey taker, who suggested re-doing the painting. “ I think the art in the tunnel should be more universal to everyone at AQ — I mean there’s the anime character from like one piece or something on there— how many of our students do you think actually watched one piece? I feel like there could have been a lot done with the mural, and someone just let this kid come down and paint whatever he felt like. Also— the tunnel itself needs to be fixed— the leaking in the tunnel has and will continue to ruin any art we put in the tunnel. Plus that’s got to be a health hazard…”

Another person commented, “It is not that great honestly. It seems like he rushed to get it done, and there are a lot more talented artists that could make a more “Aquinas-themed” artwork. No offense to the original artist, it just looks average, not great.”

In my research, I discovered that lots of people loved what the wall represented, which gave me a renewed appreciation for walkway that provokes a feeling within me each and every time. Comments such as, “I love walking down and seeing the art, it brightens my day!”, and, “I want more!” conveys the influence of art.

One said, “I love the art and the fact that it is a snapshot of someone who has gone to Aquinas. However, I think it would be amazing to see it finished with (perhaps) the snapshots of other students. Whether it be anyone interested, or even the art majors on campus. I think it being completely redone should be okayed by the artist if it were to happen, but that could also work with permission.”

Many participants expressed that they are excited to see what the tunnel will look like when it is completed.

Four years ago, I decided to chose to spend my time and my money at Aquinas because of its assurance of diversity, which is what I believe the wall was intended to convey. I find that the project’s incompleteness speaks volumes. I also believe the passionate responses I received about art, collaboration, and institutional pride possess meaning as well. After about a year’s worth of neglect, maybe it’s time we proactively collaborate to finish what was started.

About the Writer…
Abigale Racine

Abigale Racine is a senior studying English, with a focus in journalism. She is the Culture Editor of The Saint and does some freelance work on the side, when she isn’t soaking up the scene that is Grand Rapids.

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