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UI art students to protest possible Pollock sale

BY ALISON SULLIVAN | FEBRUARY 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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“Jack the Dripper’s” brush has long been dry, but the famed artist’s piece, Mural, is still dripping with controversy.

In response to a recently proposed bill that would force the University of Iowa Museum of Art to sell Jackson Pollock’s Mural, the UI arts community is rallying to keep Pollock’s work at the university.

Students and faculty plan to protest the sale on the Pentacrest Thursday.

The bill, proposed in the Iowa House of Representatives, demands the sale of the roughly $140 million painting in order to fund an estimated 1,000 scholarships for UI arts students. The full Iowa House Appropriations Committee is slated to vote on the bill today.

“Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of [Pollock’s] work, it’s important to look at what it all means — expressing oneself,” said UI sophomore Jacob Yeates. “To know that message to students is being compromised for budget-related issues is unsettling.”

The idea for the protest emerged after a discussion of the various types of performance art — including rallying — during an Intermedia I art class.

Because the class had also been discussing Pollock’s Mural, the two discussions quickly collided.

“It was kind of a natural thought progression,” said UI junior Erica Blair, an art student in the class.

The students created the Facebook group “Save the Pollock” to spread the word about the protest. As of Sunday night, roughly 500 people said they would attend.

Though financial aid is helpful, Blair said, she would not apply for any scholarships created from the sale.

“Just because that money should not be allocated in that way,” she said.

The UI arts community has been vocal about its opposition to the bill, with members saying it would be a devastating blow to the university.

Yeates said he thinks the whole idea of selling Pollock’s work to fund an art scholarship is “totally backwards.”

Still, he said, he can understand the need to fund more scholarships.

“It’s a double-edged sword with the scholarships,” he said. “It’s not fair for the UI to sell, but I know a lot of art students who could use the money. This major can keep a lot of people struggling to pay for school.”

UI art Associate Professor Julie Hochstrasser said the Pollock has a big effect on the teaching in her school. The piece plays up the status of the university and its art museum for the entire art world, she said.

“I’m hoping this gives a message that’s really clear to those in Des Moines,” Hochstrasser said. “The work is important to us as an institution and is something that we’re willing to fight for.”

Rep. Scott Raecker, R-Urbandale, introduced the bill Feb. 9. He said bringing up the bill is a way for university officials to consider where their core principles lie: in funding education or building an art museum.

But one professor said the issue is more than a piece of art.

“The painting is a single issue, but it’s part of a broader pattern of decreased support for higher education,” said UI art Assistant Professor Sara Kanouse.

DI reporter Ariana Witt contributed to this report.


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