UNC, community merge at festival

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 5.08.57 PMA three-sided chalkboard on the lawn of the University of Northern Colorado’s Michener Library attracted a variety of people Saturday morning — community members in jeans and sweatshirts, students in club T-shirts and UNC cheerleaders in uniform.

They joked about having to crouch down to write something on the chalkboard, which served as the booth for the school of art and design at Community Fest. But they crouched anyway. The chalkboards are part of an international art project created by artist Candy Chang of New Orleans. The prompt was simply “Before I die, I want to ___.”

The booth, part of Community Fest, was one of several activities during UNC’s homecoming week, which also featured a parade, a football game, a weeklong school spirit contest and more. The Community Fest is aimed at bringing together the UNC community and the Greeley community and drew more than 500 people to the campus before UNC kicked off its football game against Southern Utah.

The school of art and design was one of the groups at the festival that offered a hands-on activity. In this case, public art.

“It’s an irresistible temptation,” said Susan Nelson, director of community arts at UNC, about the chalkboard.

The responses on the chalkboard ranged from “meet Batman” to “live.”

The variety of people who shared their dreams in chalk was a small sampling of those who participated in the project across the world. That’s one of the reasons Nelson said she loves the public art venture.

The idea to bring the project to UNC started when Director of UNC Galleries Joan Shannon-Miller watched a TED Talk — an online video featuring people talking about their ideas and innovations — with Candy Chang. Like Nelson, Shannon-Miller liked the idea of participating in something that was so popular and universal.

On a smaller scale, the free Community Fest had a similar uniting effect.

“UNC and Greeley have a separation for some reason, and this helps bring people together,” said senior recreation, tourism and hospitality major Alex Denton, who works for University Relations.

Booths were set up for schools within the university, clubs, local businesses and Greeley organizations. Some offered information, others games. On one side of the pleasant chaos that was the booth area, UNC radio played popular songs. On the other side, a stage was set up, and performers from the UNC musical theater program, area high schools and the community took turns entertaining the crowd.

About an hour into the event, Shannon-Miller was looking forward to seeing the chalkboards filled up completely. About an hour into the event, that goal was nearly fulfilled. The lines painted on the chalkboard were almost full.

Miller said it didn’t seem right to erase some of the aspirations earlier visitors had already written on the chalkboards when people could squeeze their dreams in alongside those already there. That’s why she loves public art projects like this one, she said.

“The aspect of public gathering and sharing with others, and creating a pretty cool piece of art, too.”  source: Greeley Tribune

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