No one pays close attention to the abundance of flyers stapled to the corkboard at bus stops, let alone gives much thought as to what was there before. Now, for the first time ever, students have a chance to see flyers from 1965 through 2001 detailing UC Santa Cruz student art exhibitions and political action.

Remove by X, housed at the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery, is an exhibition of flyers, newsletters, brochures, and posters archived from UC Santa Cruz’s 1965 inception to 2000. This content, referred to as “ephemera” by the gallery, chronicles important campus happenings, from anti-war protests to student-run art shows.

“We wanted to have a large student representation from senior recitals, art shows, or just other art happenings that were student-initiated,” said Sesnon Gallery Manager and Museum Preparator Louise Leong.

The flyers on display chronicle student art exhibitions, protests, and demonstrations — most notably, the Third World and Native American Studies (TWANAS) hunger strike in 1981 that protested UCSC’s lack of recognition of issues impacting students of color.

All photos by Keith Gelderloos.

Much of the campus history exhibited is not widely known by the current UCSC population. However, it is important that they are aware of the efforts made by past students to increase representation.

“I think that, for some people, seeing records of people who look like them, or identified similarly, organizing and making their own space is really powerful,” said Leong. 

The ephemera in the exhibit demonstrate the relevance of the past, and the same kinds of pieces featured in the exhibit are still being created all over campus today.   

“Save documentation of your political action, or whatever it is that you’re doing,” said Special Collections and Archives Supervisory Archivist Kate Dundon. “People don’t always know that their lives are important and that their work is important enough to be captured in the archive.”

In addition to the ephemera on the walls, there is also a collection of five scrapbooks containing photographs, brochures, newsletters, flyers, posters, publications, and more. These serve as documentation of the academic endeavors and student experiences at Porter College, known for being the arts college on campus.

Much of the exhibit material is sourced through archival donations by Keith Muscutt, the Assistant Dean of the Arts from 1978 to 2007, in addition to professor emerita of Theater Arts and former Porter provost Kathy Foley. The space itself is curated by Leong and Institute of Arts and Sciences director Rachel Nelson. Ultimately, the exhibit documents a collective history that has been largely forgotten.

“The same people who were important then are important now in the art space,” said third-year gallery attendant Brenda Alvarez.

Remove by X speaks to the impermanence of university life: events wrap up, flyers are taken down, and students graduate. But archives give the community a way to look into the past, turning the fleeting into institutional memory.

“The experience of being at a university is a significant part of history that should be preserved,” said Dundon. 

The ultimate goal of Remove by X is to inspire past, present, and future UCSC students to make an impact in their community, which was something Leong emphasized.

“It gives a sense of hope that collective power can make change for the better.”

Remove by X will be on exhibit at the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery until April 29, 2023.