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Sheryl Knighton-Schwandt
Office of the Vice Provost for Research

Last modified: Monday, October 22, 2007

Campus-community graffiti project is part of IUís Moveable Feast of the Arts and ArtsWeek 2008-2009

Oct. 22, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Graffiti may seem more anarchy than art, but a new community art project involving Indiana University and the cities surrounding its various campuses around the state will showcase graffiti as a powerful political art form. The project is part of IU's Moveable Feast of the Arts Program.

"Writing on the Wall," a collaboration led by Betsy Stirratt, artist and director of IU's SoFA gallery; Joe LaMantia, a longtime Bloomington community artist; and IU's Office of the Vice Provost for Research, highlights the deep political roots of graffiti art. From October 2007 through January 2009, "Writing on the Wall" will create opportunities for Hoosier citizens to respond to two key political questions: What is democracy? What does it look like?

Starting in Bloomington, "Writing on the Wall" will feature blank walls, approximately 20-feet long, at locations on the campus and in the city. At each location, writing and drawing implements will be available, and passers-by will be invited to "tag" the wall with their personalized thoughts, ideas and feelings about democracy and the world in which we live.

"Some of us may greet it with suspicion, but graffiti is arguably a great world art form," said IU President Michael A. McRobbie. "I'm pleased that the university and the City of Bloomington are joining together to support this project, which gives expression to one of this country's most cherished values -- democracy. I'm also grateful to the Lilly Foundation for its contributions to IU's Moveable Feast of the Arts Program, which allows us to sponsor unique projects such as this one."

Blank panels will travel to each of IU's campuses and their surrounding communities, engaging people from all regions of Indiana. Eventually, the project's collaborators hope to find permanent locations for some of the graffiti panels throughout the state.

As evidence of its longstanding history as a form of art, social and political graffiti, which is defined as "drawing or writing scratched on a wall or other surface," can be found in Old Jerusalem, in mosaics from ancient Greece, in Mayan temple sites and on the walls of ruins in Pompeii.

IU's Moveable Feast of the Arts program, which was launched three years ago, is designed to share the university's cultural resources with citizens across the state. To date, the program has featured programs by faculty and students in IU's Jacobs School of Music, including violin virtuoso Jaime Laredo and the IU Philharmonic Orchestra.

"Continued investment to support creativity and innovation in the arts is a first-order priority for the Bloomington campus," said Karen Hanson, executive vice president and provost of IU Bloomington. "This dynamic project combines aesthetic and political values in an intriguing way, and it has developed first as a collaboration between an artist on campus and another in our community. Moreover, it aims to engage a range of other communities. Both the process and the products should be interesting. I'm excited to see what emerges."

"Writing on the Wall" also will be a special feature of IU's ArtsWeek 2008 (Feb. 20-March 1, 2008), an annual campus-community arts celebration in Bloomington sponsored by IU's Office of the Vice Provost for Research and now in its 24th year.

"The tradition of ArtsWeek has become a major highlight in the cultural year at IU Bloomington," said Sarita Soni, IU Vice Provost for Research. "The 'Writing on the Wall' project, like ArtsWeek as a whole, illustrates how collaboration, partnership and dialogue expand the enjoyment and impact of the arts beyond disciplines and geographical boundaries. This year, with support from IU's Moveable Feast of the Arts Program, we will broaden the reach of ArtsWeek by including the humanities but also engaging all IU campuses."

During ArtsWeek '08, five artists drawn from the IU Bloomington campus and its community, will be commissioned to participate in "Writing on the Wall" by creating a combined 40-foot by 8-foot mural for display.

"The creative arts are a key ingredient in Bloomington's unique community character," said Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan. "I'm so pleased to collaborate with the university to celebrate this special aspect of our quality of life in Bloomington. This project emphasizes both creative output and political engagement, both of which our city government is committed to protecting and promoting."

Project collaborator Joe LaMantia has set up the first panel for "Writing on the Wall" in front of Bloomington's City Hall at the Showers Building on North Morton Street. A second wall will be located at the north entrance to the Wells Library on the Bloomington campus from Oct. 29 - Nov. 12 followed by the Kelley School of Business and School of Education's indoor atriums from Nov. 12 - 28 and Dec. 3-14 respectively.

"Democracy is about making choices and keeping faith with those choices," he said of the project. "Faith -- going forward even though we do not know what is going to happen -- is also the main ingredient of creating art. Making a spontaneous choice to act is the first step of creativity and of politics."

For more information, contact Sheryl Knighton-Schwandt, IU Office of the Vice Provost for Research, 812-856-0504 or Joe LaMantia may be reached at 812-320-9138.