Campus Report

An Update Regarding the BSU Art Exhibit

Office of Communications
December 9, 2016

The following email was sent to the campus community on December 9, 2016, by Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham '92.

Dear Kenyon Colleagues and Students,

Earlier this week you heard from the Black Student Union (BSU) about an art exhibit they installed on campus, as well as the subsequent decision to temporarily remove the exhibit. I thought it would be helpful to provide some additional context and explanation regarding the conversations that have taken place.

First, let me state unequivocally that at Kenyon we embrace freedom of expression. This means that there will be times when members of our community disagree with controversial images and viewpoints. The visual arts in particular frequently present provocative material in a way that can evoke strong reaction, even anger, but can also promote empathy and understanding. This is an integral component of an intellectual community. We must support the ability of students and other community members to use art as a form of political expression. The BSU exhibit is no exception.

At Kenyon we also have procedures in place for the display of public art on campus. Over the last several days my colleagues and I have been in communication with the BSU executive board regarding their exhibit. We have listened as they explained thoughtfully (as reflected in their email messages to the community) how it feels to be students of color at Kenyon and in this country, especially given recent national events. We have also explained, and the BSU members understand, the need to follow Kenyon's approval process for public art. The committee charged with that process is a representative group comprising faculty, staff and students appointed by President Decatur and chaired by Director of the Gund Gallery Natalie Marsh. Rather than censoring artistic content, they work to ensure that artists have taken into consideration matters regarding placement on campus, timing and materials. In a meeting late yesterday afternoon with BSU members, we committed to facilitating that process in order to re-launch their exhibit next semester.

I wish everyone all the best for a successful end to the semester.

Meredith Harper Bonham '92

Information on Kenyon's Public Art Committee

Public Art Proposal Form