Sometimes people express affection in funny ways, and sometimes those “funny” ways aren’t actually funny. Case in point: the relationship between college students and campus art.
From the mural on the lower campus center patio to the hidden graffiti of the Lorax on Eaton to the myriad statues that pepper Tufts’ campus, the Hill is a veritable open-air gallery. For the most part, it seems that Jumbos really enjoy the talent on display around them — after all, Banjo, as the ostrich head formerly at the base of the steps to Tisch Library was known, even got his own Twitter account, and “The Colossal AcornHead” — now between Eaton and Goddard Chapel — has inspired many strange comments, conversations and (unconfirmed) cults.
Not only do students enjoy the art, but they also find meaning in it. The arrival of the Jumbo statue outside Barnum Hall last spring played stage to one of the most vocal local protest movements of the academic year, as students contested the relative extravagance of the artwork and its unveiling after the university announced its plan to cut a number of janitorial staff employees.
Yet the Hill is not a friendly place for public art. Banjo is known by all too few Jumbos because he had to be returned to the lender. Students reportedly packed the statue in snow, dribbled paint on it and smashed a pumpkin over its head. There were even allegations of students urinating on the statue.
Where, then, do students land in their relationship with campus art? Is the art loved? Are these acts of vandalism really just misguided attempts to show affection for the art? In the case of the more serious incidents, probably not. Sometimes people do stupid things — especially when those people live on a college campus where the weekends are full of parties. To paraphrase a character from a popular animated series: this is why we can’t have nice things. While students may mean well with their shenanigans, not everyone is in on the joke. Have fun with the art, but don’t break it.