Art department sick of playing telephone



Julie Sickel

Members of the art department spread around campus and tried to talk on the phone Friday. They weren’t using pay phones or cell phones, but instead pink string and metal cans.

“Part of this is about the absurdity of it, right?” said Michael Loderstedt, coordinator of graduate studies, to a group of about 26 volunteers. “We’re in six different buildings; that doesn’t make any sense. The point of this is a political action.”

Student and faculty volunteers strung metal cans between posts outside the buildings that house art courses: Van Deusen Hall, the Art Building, Olson Hall, Michael Schwartz Center, the Art Annex and the Ceramics Lab. They connected those posts to the art building in an effort to make a system of old-fashioned, soup can telephones.

Loderstedt said they were trying to bring a certain awareness to the fact that the art building is neglected and spread out all over “hell and tarnation.”

Once the telephones were connected, members of different “teams” attempted to yell messages like “Hello!” and “We need a new art building” to other locations on campus.

“(The telephones) are a metaphor for how disconnected we are, that there’s no tied-in network of dialogue happening between all the media,” said Emily Sullivan, an adjunct faculty member at the Stark campus and Kent State graduate. “In order to communicate, we have to do something like this.”

Volunteers also held neon pink paper bullhorns that listed the “Top 10 Reasons Why We Need A New Art Building.”

The disconnection is a concern for members of the art department.

“I think one of the things that we’re really pushing today is that there’s not a lot of interdisciplinary communication,” Sullivan said. “So the students, unless they have classes with each other, don’t see each other’s work.”

Several art students expressed a similar frustration about being unable to observe the work of their peers in other disciplines.

“It’d be nice to see (fellow art students’) work as it’s progressing rather than just on formal occasions once a month, if that,” said Andrew Simmons, a graduate student in crafts.

Loderstedt said a new art building was being planned before the Kasich administration came in.

Last fall, the Kent State administration requested bonds that would fund similar projects across campus. The Ohio Board of Regents denied permission, and university executives are looking at other options.

“(A new building) seems fairly unlikely now under Kasich,” Loderstedt said. “They’re talking about cutting back all kinds of funding to higher education.”

Nicholas Sinatra, a sophomore pre-fashion design and merchandising major and volunteer, said he had high hopes for the success of the campaign.

“I feel like it will help raise awareness not only to the state of the facilities but also to the great work that is going on inside of them,” Sinatra said. “Art is all about the aesthetic, and if your buildings don’t reflect the aesthetic of the art, then people don’t really think it’s worth while.”

The art department hasn’t been under one roof since the 1960’s when the media were all located in Van Deusen hall, Loderstedt said.

As for successful communication between buildings through the metal can telephones, Loderstedt said the result furthered the metaphor of their campaign.

“I didn’t expect that we’d be able to communicate very well on those things with the long distance and having to wrap the string around trees and light posts,” he said. “But that’s the symbolic part about this whole thing, and in the end, I think it was a great unifier for the art department.”

Contact Julie Sickel at [email protected].