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A visual reckoning

October 28, 2022

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

If one were to teleport onto the Main Quad fifty years ago, it would look familiar. The visual language of the College has remained strong. Similar lamps still line the paths between patches of grass. Squirrels still bury their fall acorn stashes under the same—if now slightly bigger—oak trees. The people who walk these paths, however, look vastly different than they did decades ago. Our buildings can reflect different architectural eras, educational priorities and College presidencies. What can depict the changing values and identities of those who walk across the campus every day?

Despite the administration’s drive to uphold the campus’ traditional appearance, the implications for this mission may go beyond aesthetics. Bowdoin’s physical campus largely reflects institutional values from a time where the student body looked much different than it does today. Walking through the quad reminds us of the College’s history, but it does not adequately express the multitude of evolving perspectives and diverse experiences that are at Bowdoin’s core. How do we imagine ourselves on a campus that does not reflect our personal values and identities?

Visual art installations are a unique mechanism to address the optical disconnect between the static campus aesthetic and Bowdoin’s changing values. Unlike the construction of new buildings, which can take years to complete and will stand for decades, art installations can evolve. Thus, Bowdoin can connect with local and global artists and inspire students to voice their ideas in a visual manner. This can come in the form of murals and interactive installations that embody students’ experiences, with more than 2,000 interpretations. Placed on the quad, art installations will also create a more striking impression on the new visitors to Bowdoin.

Imagine if there were different outdoor art installations that changed with the times and brought new artists’ visions and ideas. Not only would the campus squirrels have a new jungle gym, but students would have a colorful centerpiece on which to rest their eyes and a material catalyst for meaningful conversation.

Art intrigues, provokes and empowers. Bowdoin students know that they learn as much outside of the classroom as they do inside. Art can be a window into the minds of our peers and a vehicle to making sense of our present moment. Public art expands our worldview beyond our campus’s bounds while also elevating the unique perspectives within it. We came to Bowdoin seeking such an experience.

Wouldn’t that be great if we could get that from walking across the Main Quad?

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, which is comprised of Sophie Burchell, Lucas Dufalla, Nikki Harris, Kaya Patel, Juliana Vandermark, Maile Winterbottom, Austin Zheng, Halina Bennet and Seamus Frey.


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