Despite being the central building for all of the studio art classes on campus and the department building of the art studio major, the Art Building itself isn’t characterized as very, well, ‘artsy.’ In fact, upon going inside, you’ll find that the vast majority of the building is comprised of seemingly endless white walls that occasionally have student art pieces displayed throughout the quarter.
“It’s depressing. It’s sad. There’s nothing going on — it’s blank,” Marceline Bausone, second-year design and art studio double major, said.
She, along with many other students, agree that the current aesthetic state of the Art Building is bland, cold and distant.
“It gives prison,” Bausone said. “It’s like I could be incarcerated there.”
The white walls don’t come off as warm and inviting, but rather stale and removed from any sort of personality. In short, the opposite of what someone would expect an art department building to be like. Other students, such as fourth-year art studio major Danielle Dizon, share these same sentiments.
“I remember first touring here before I was a freshman, and there’s just nothing around here. It feels kind of dungy,” Dizon said.
Granted, some may argue that the walls need to be white to contrast and compliment displayed artwork. However, there are many other walls, such as those in the first floor, bathrooms and stairwells, that are left completely devoid of any sort of decoration or display throughout the entire year.
Dizon pointed out that if the Art Department were to allow students to paint or otherwise decorate these walls, it would be a great opportunity to spotlight artists. The department could even choose to paint over large student pieces every year for a clean slate and spotlight another artist in the same wall space.
Additionally, there are mural-focused art courses where the attention could be on students painting murals all over the art building, breathing into it some sort of creative life. What better canvas to paint murals on than a white-walled art building begging for character?
As the building is the center for hundreds of art majors, it doesn’t come as a surprise that we’ve seen an introduction of graffiti. Treating the white walls like blank canvases waiting to be filled, graffiti has pushed back against the barren walls of the Art Building.
These wall illustrations, however, are painted over time and time again. There are some areas, such as the northernmost flight of stairs on the right side of the building, that are seemingly designated for students’ creative graffiti and not covered up. The question is: should the rest of the building embrace this freeform, artistic approach of decorating the walls?
Third-year design and art studio double-major Mateenah Muhammad supports the allowance of appropriate, artistic graffiti to cover the halls.
“I think it’s a great way to fill the walls up because this is an artistic, creative space with individuals and also you can see with other people — their styles and stuff like that,” Muhammed said. “I personally enjoy it.”
A lot of the graffiti works to pull away from the perceived cold, lifeless atmosphere that the blank walls produce — some are beautiful, others are funny.
“It brightens my day to see people like, you know, the funny little things that they think up in their mind and put on the walls,” Muhammad said.
There are endless ways the walls in the Art Building can be utilized not only for decoration, but also as a tool for art majors when creating public murals, installations or other forms of art. The fact that graffiti persistently spreads across the building despite being painted over repeatedly shows that many students want the building to be something more than white and empty and they resist the eradication of their art.
There is potential that the Art Building could double as both a university hall and a giant exhibition of the works of UC Davis’ art majors, ranging from graffiti to murals and sculpted installations.
Although both current and future graffiti should be monitored to filter offensive content, to welcome it and give consent to students to adorn the building with graffiti could be the first step in starting a student tradition of making the Art Building uniquely and creatively their own.