The East Carolina University Police Department is reassessing the security for gallery areas across ECU’s campus after an exhibit on display at the Health Science Student Center was vandalized.
An art exhibition on gun violence in the Health Sciences Student Center was vandalized early last week, according to Sephra Reyes, a graduate student who studies metals in the School of Art and Design.
Reyes is the director for selecting projects to display in all of the student centers at ECU.
Reyes said the show, titled “Enough is Enough,” was set up in the downstairs portion of the student gallery in the Health Sciences Complex. She said the exhibit has been up since the first few days of December and the vandalism has been an ongoing occurrence.
“Later on in the month (of December), a student’s response to the show was to print out memes in support, I assume, of the Second Amendment, and put them up next to the artwork on the wall,” Reyes said. “The prints themselves were hung with magnets, and the memes, I assume they were just put (up) with tape on the wall.”
Reyes said they responded by taking the memes off the wall and put them on a poster board next to the show, rather than shutting it down. She said she thinks this created an interactive exhibit and drew more attention to the show.
Reyes said the final thing that happened to the exhibition was when someone took a print from the show and hid it behind another piece of art. She said the person also took two more prints, ripped them in half and left them on the ground.
“It’s a sensitive subject, but I believe part of the gallery and school’s responsibility is to create an open safe space to talk about all kinds of issues,” Reyes said. “It unfortunately escalated to the point of vandalism.”
Chris Sutton, ECU Police Department patrol captain, said the department will be re-assessing security at the student center on campus. He said the areas mentioned are in the process of being designated gallery areas.
“This activity and behavior is not in line with the values and mission of ECU,” Sutton said. “This is counterproductive to the effort of maintaining civil discourse on our campus.”
Reyes said a total of 23 people across the country made prints that were combined into one print show. She said making a print is essentially manually making something that a printer machine can make, and it includes techniques such as etching and carving followed by the addition of ink.
“It was called ‘Enough is Enough,’ and it was a print show,” Reyes said. “It’s called a folio, so it was organized by non-student printers that were seeing the issues going on with gun violence and the various shootings and stuff. Their response was to put together a show.”
Reyes said while the show came down last weekend, it was up for nearly two months. She said the series of incidents caused the artists involved to start seeking other venues for their artwork, since it is an important topic.
“The vandalism is an unnecessary response,” Reyes said. “I think that a good reaction on our part is to show that destroying artwork does nothing, it only spurs us into further action.”
Reyes said ECU Police and administration are taking several steps in order to prevent another incident like this. She said they wanted to improve signage notifying students of rules, and more transparency between the gallery and students.
Reyes said the galleries are not just for art students, any student can submit artwork to be displayed.
“It’s absolutely anybody who wants to say something,” Reyes said. “Just because you’re not an art major, if you still have work you want to show, we welcome it.”
Reyes said they plan to get a suggestion box, so that students can submit ideas for what they want to see in galleries across campus. She said these boxes will be going up in all the student centers in multiple locations, sticking with the theme of transparency.