A New Home for the J's

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Photo by Grace Singer

Making their second debut onto Jacksonville University’s campus, the prominent and somewhat infamous JU Graffiti wall, known as the J’s, has returned. These stone structures, placed purposefully together to showcase the acronym JU, have been repainted, revamped and relocated to their seemingly final home, the roundabout on the North entrance of campus.

Originally intended as a graffiti wall, the senior gift from the class of 2011 developed into the sculptural representation of two juxtaposed J’s.

However, the use of the J’s as a spray-painted hodgepodge became the subject of controversy almost overnight after the sculpture’s initial placement in the fountain space in front of the Kinne Center.  They were removed in October after a string of aesthetic complaints amongst students and faculty.

“It [moving the J’s] was a university wide decision,” said Dr. Karen Jackson, professor of biology and marine science. “The piece itself was too artistic. It looked like it had been graffitied in a bad way.”

One of the largest issues with the statue that was, to those without inside knowledge of the structure’s purpose, the graffiti often looked unintentional. This presented a problem with potential negative impressions given to visitors of the campus such as alumni, potential students and their families, and donors.

A meeting amongst a diverse group of campus representatives, including those from campus security and student life, determined the fate of the J’s. It was decided that the structure would be removed for a period of time, repainted and, in a demonstration of artistic and esthetic justice, redisplayed in an equally prominent location.

The new version of the J’s is to be displayed as a stable work of art. Graffiti will no longer be permitted on the structure.

“Maybe if we had made the graffiti on an uglier wall, it would not have been the same,” Jackson said.

This will be intended to resonate with one stable positive impression, as opposed to the previous idea that the message would be subject to the moods and whims of whatever student chose to use it as a canvas.

Opinion on this alteration boils down to a battle of expression, message presentation and the artistic eye.

While it can be argued that removing the right of students to legally graffiti the J’s is an infringement on student expression, it can also be debated that the graffiti disrupts the artistic integrity represented by the original piece.

“I don’t think they should have moved them,” said freshman Samara Generals. “Some of the art they had on there was quite interesting and unique.”

Alongside the esthetic alteration of the statue, there has also been comment on its new location.

“I like the paint that they put on it. I think it looks better than the graffiti but I wish they would have left it where it was,” said Danielle Thomas, freshman and film major.

The original Kinne Center location was one with much more student accessibility, central to locations such as the Cafe, the Valley and the Davis Student Commons where hundreds of students crisscross paths on a daily basis.

“Now the J’s are in an awkward place on campus where not many people can appreciate them and besides, it was supposed to be a gift to the school from the previous seniors so they should decide what to do with it,” Generals said.

The new location on the north side of campus, while it is still highly visible, is “off the beaten path” for students. This placement by the school’s entrance provides the statue with a new sense of prominence and for some, a greater sense of what it was intended to be.

“It is a gift from the students that beautifies the campus,” said Jackson.  “It is important for alumni to give back. That is the goal of the class gift. It’s to say thank you.”

The new location also inherently brings a sense of protection to the statue. Being out of the way for many students, it is less likely to be vandalized.  As an additional deterrent, a small jump across the pavement from the J’s new home is the Campus Security Office.

“Hopefully the problems are over,” Jackson said. “The Js have been in place for a few weeks now and have not been graffittied. I think we solved the problems with them.”

With a new face and a fresh coat of paint, the statue of the J’s moved past the heat of past criticisms and now stands, radiant and prideful, in Jacksonville University’s front yard.

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