The construction and unveiling of the Maya Lin Arts Plaza last Monday resulted in a stir around UC Irvine.
The cost of the transformed arts plaza totaled $3.6 million and includes a water table, whispering benches, outdoor drawing room, outdoor screening room and Digital Exhibition Space.
Many have expressed dissappointment in the new transformation as many believed that the plaza, designed by Maya Lin, who created the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., would be an exceptional piece of art rather than a number of benches and its signature water table.
As a result, these people feel that the $3.6 million should have been more wisely spent on directly improving the education of students.
However, what many fail to see is that the newly transformed arts plaza is beneficial to students, the Claire Trevor School of Arts and UCI itself. For the students majoring in the arts or who regularly pass through the plaza, the new area accommodates outdoor performances, instructional activities and provides space for reflection. Students have already put to use the new plaza as many are seen reading, acting and socializing on or around the benches and water table.
Other departments at UCI have numerous forms of attention brought to their schools. First of all, many departments have noteworthy architectural structures and art pieces. The School of Biological Sciences, for example, has its extensive Science Library. Secondly, other departments at UCI also receive large amounts of private funding. Just last year the School of Business received $30 million from Paul Merage, after whom the school is now named.
The engineering and science areas are constantly being renovated and new buildings are always being added to that side of campus. Construction is moving forward with Bren Hall for the School of Information and Computer Sciences, and the School of Engineering is beginning to utilize the Calit2 building completed last year.
While it’s certain that these buildings are needed to accommodate the rapidly growing UCI student population, it reveals where the priorities of the school administrators and private donors lie, whether one agrees with it or not. As a research institution, we have been forced to let the arts fend for themselves.
Furthermore, there is less attention to the School of Arts due to its location, which is not even on the core ground of the UCI campus that circumferences Aldrich Park. One is required to cross a bridge from the humanities facilities to even reach the School of Arts.
It is also important to note the increased attention to our university as a whole due to Lin’s creation. The UCI campus has very few works made by notable architects; the fact that ours is the only UC campus with an arts plaza designed by Lin will undoubtedly make it stand apart from others.
But we shouldn’t be satisfied with what has been done so far. The School of Arts needs to be given the funding and attention it deserves. The arts plaza is just the first step in many needed to allow the arts to flourish here at UCI.
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