Campus gallery vandalized

Photo: Rachel Stratton
Part of the gallery was dedicated to those who wanted to donate their hair to be displayed on the floor.
Unfortunate incident hit art branch

By Grace Lehrian
News Editor/Spectator

Edinboro University’s art program was hit with an unfortunate incident earlier this semester, as a showcase created by Rachel Stratton and Travis Swoope was vandalized on numerous occasions. The gallery, titled “Head Shop/Sold As Is,” ran from Oct. 11 to Oct. 18.

Stratton is a photography major with a minor in art history and the junior was given the opportunity to display her work in the Bates Gallery in Loveland Hall. She shared the showcase with Travis Swoope, also a photography major in his junior year.

“Our show featured 30-plus medium format photographs and an interactive installation wherein participants had their hair cut and arranged to remain on the floor of the installation. Also featured were two large sculpture pieces and 13 salt and pepper shakers by Travis Swoope,” said Stratton. The gallery was set, and ready to be presented to the university and community, but it was dampened by what occurred afterwards.

Problems with the gallery began before the student’s opening day. Stratton busied herself with advertising for their showcase by putting up flyers in all of the buildings.  This type of advertisement was nothing out of the ordinary for a student who was preparing to showcase their work. 

What was out of the ordinary was what Stratton came back to find after placing her flyers across campus.

“When I returned to Doucette for class just an hour later, one side of the building was entirely cleared of our show cards. They had all been ripped, crumpled, and thrown away. I had eliminated that possibility that a custodial member had done this, and I simply resolved to hang more cards,” Stratton said.  Stratton said that she filed a report to the police, but this was not the end of their struggle with vandalism.

The artist showcased their art, and the Bates Gallery was finally open. The artist returned to find that their work had been stolen.

“Two ceramic salt and pepper shakers were stolen from our exhibit, between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. on Oct. 16. They were titled “Salt and Pecker Shakers,” and they were, in fact, 13 hand-sculpted, ceramic penises. One of the two pieces stolen was later found stashed away in the ceramic studio, hidden, presumably, by the thief,” said Stratton.

Stratton spends much of her time in Loveland. Besides being photography major, she also holds a position as a nude model for the art department. This gave her a better idea of when the art disappeared from the gallery. When she reported for work, she happened to stop into the gallery seeing that all 13 items were pres ent, but on a break she found that two of them were missing. 

“A police report was promptly filed,” said Stratton. In the weeks following the opening of the gallery, the vandalism seemed to return to the advertisement fliers.

“Over the next week preceding the grand opening of our show on Oct. 11, many more of our cards were defaced, burned, torn, scattered, and thrown away. The destruction was appearing more and more threatening and violent, so we filed a police report. They half-heartedly offered to do infrequent walk-throughs of the building. They staunchly denied our concerns and pleas for security cameras in Loveland Hall, to prevent this kind of malevolence. We were already fearful of our work being vandalized and stolen,” said Stratton.

Stratton said that this type of vandalism is not new to her and Swoope.

“Let it be known that Travis Swoope and I are both members of the LBGTQIA community, and this type of aggression is already too familiar to us in the art department.”

The art department struggled with vandalism issues at the beginning of the semester as well.

The art department hosted a program called Aloha. It featured multiple different sections of the art department, and it gave other students an opportunity to see if they would like to join any of the clubs.

“The photography club was having their own show in Bates Gallery, which we hoped would be a good chance at exposure for our club and our diverse talents. It was discovered after Aloha that more than 4 photographs had been defaced. All of them were photographs of queer students, by queer students. Holes were punched where eyes and anuses would be on the people in the photographs,” said Stratton.

The hateful gestures seemed to have appeared again in the guestbook of Stratton and Swoope’s gallery.

“The guest book of ‘Head Shop/Sold As Is’ is absolutely littered with harsh aggression and hateful speech…‘WHORE’ was written over my face in the photograph [pictured to the right]. It is clear that someone is harboring hate for the both of us,” said Stratton.

Stratton and her colleagues are working hard to try and catch those who are wronging the art.

“Jim Parlin, head of the art department, was the first person we wanted to sit down and address this issue with. He was the first to suggest filing a police report.”

Stratton also believes a security camera should be placed in Loveland Hall. She told The Spectator that requests have been made regarding this action, but that police have said “there have not been enough instances of vandalism to warrant that kind of expenditure.”

Upon calling the campus police station, though, no officers were able to identify or recall these requests. Interim police chief Angela Vincent was unable to be reached regarding the issue.

“It is distressing for me that any member of our community should be the target of attacks of this nature,” added Parlin.

This experience has left a bad impression on Stratton. No one has been punished for the mutilation and she expressed a sense of “distrust” for those who are in the department, and says that “it is saddening.”

“I want the word to get out so that the guilty parties know we will not passively ignore the hate we are receiving. We will not stop creating our art because someone is afraid of our differences. We will not stop persevering so that future queer art students can feel safe displaying their work in a department that belongs as much to them as any other student,” said Stratton.

“This is our school and we deserve to feel safe.  If anything, we absolutely deserve a security camera in Loveland Hall. One single security camera could prevent these offenses, and catch any perpetrator committing them, whether it be out of hate or pure idiocy.”

An official police report for the matter has in fact been filed, with a police blotter entry on Oct. 16 reading: “Unknown actors removed two pieces of art from the show being displayed in Bates Gallery in Loveland Hall. The items were penis shaped salt and pepper shakers valued at $45 each.” These crimes are reportedly not being considered hate crimes at this time, though, by campus police.

“I have looked through our incidents and am not seeing any reports of vandalism that showed hate towards members of the LGBTQ community,” said Vincent.

Grace Lehrian is news editor for The Spectator. She can be reached by (814) 732-2266