By Nick Parker

Under the flickering spotlights of the media theatre, Fred Wilson said, “Whoa, I thought I saw God for a second.” Many faculty members and students were just as star-struck by Wilson himself, the accomplished artist and recipient of the MacArthur “genius grant” in 1999, during his lecture on Thursday, April 26.

His visit served as a catalyst for discussions about the pending Center for Art and Visual Studies (CAVS), also referred to as the Creative Commons, a new building that will be located near Baskin Arts Center. It will expand on the current Sesnon Art Gallery.

Student attendance is one thing that the new Creative Commons’ facilitators are trying to fix. “I don’t think enough students go to the Sesnon Art Galleries,” said Margaret Fuller, an art student. By expanding the area and developing new curatorial approaches, the CAVS will create a more modern space.

The CAVS February 2007 White Paper Report states, “Our hope is to build a living laboratory where artists and scholars can work together, curators can introduce new display practices, and students can explore culturally and historically diverse images and objects from the visual arts to the sciences.”

Because Wilson’s art is primarily based on the reorganization and representation of museum displays, he was a well-tapped resource during the faculty discussion on April 27.

One of Wilson’s most celebrated exhibitions, “Mining the Museum,” featured a set of silver goblets juxtaposed with slave shackles of the same time period, a painting Wilson re-titled “Frederick Serving Fruit,” and family portraits in which previously overlooked slave children were illuminated for the observer. “When you walked through one of my exhibits, you were in my television set, sort of like the twilight zone,” Wilson said during his lecture.

Jennifer Gonzalez, associate professor of history of art and visual culture, emphasized the interdisciplinary approach to the exhibition space for the new arts center.

“There will be a new, more flexible, curatorial approach,” Gonzalez said.

Right now, the current UCSC galleries are unable to provide any sort of museum-like facility.

“I don’t have climate control, so I can’t borrow from the Smithsonian,” Shelby Graham, director of the Sesnon Art Gallery, explained.

Unfortunately, the new Center for Arts and Visual Studies project faces the funding problems typical of any large-scale project.

The Charles Griffin Farr Fund donated original “seed money” in 1997/98. Now, 10 years later, the department is still drastically short of its funding goal.

“We need a grassroots movement, starting with the students and faculty and moving up through the administrators,” Graham said. The center could take as long as 10 years to complete.

However, students will not have to wait for the center’s completion to experience new art exhibitions. There will be a series of showings next May through Porter College and the Museum Without Walls Project.

Although the CAVS project is in its early stages, when it is completed, it could be much more than a typical museum.

Graham said, “It could be a meeting place just to relax… with late hours, a rooftop café, wireless internet, and indoor and outdoor quads.”