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AUArts student takes to social media to protest institution’s rebranding

By Jason Herring, February 11 2019 —

One student at the Alberta University of the Arts (AUArts) — previously known as the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) — is unhappy with the school’s recent rebranding, and he’s taking a non-traditional approach in expressing his discontent.

First-year AUArts design student Josh Chilton made a series of posts on social media on Jan. 9 purporting to have vandalized a banner and a sign in the main lobby of AUArts. Accompanying images portray a stylized version of the word ‘ARTS’ spray-painted next to the school’s official logo.

“ACAD, is rebranded now as AUArts. With literally the worst logo ever… so I fixed it with a little spray paint today,” reads an Instagram post, also tagged with the hashtag #vandalism.

But Chilton says that he didn’t actually commit physical vandalism, instead digitally editing each image he posted online to make it appear as though they had been spray-painted.

“I did not go into the school with cans of spray paint. They were photoshopped images that I simply posted around to generate hype from and make a statement to the school about the logo,” Chilton said. “I think [the logo is] cool but it doesn’t represent the school. I don’t think it’s a very good or creative logo.”

The Alberta government granted AUArts university status in 2018 and the school announced its rebranding from ACAD on Jan. 18. AUArts is the only post-secondary institution in the province with a focus on fine arts.

The post-secondary institution new logo was created by Allison Chambers, a 2005 graduate of the school. In an email statement, AUArts say they consulted with a number of groups — including current students, faculty, alumni, wider arts communities and Indigenous communities — about the school’s new identity, at which point the current logo emerged as the “clear favourite.”

Chilton, however, says he’s just one of many students who were not pleased with the school’s new visual identity.

“[I’ve heard] a lot of negative feedback around the school about the logo and I’ve certainly been one of the more vocal students that I’m familiar with talking about it and bringing it up in class discussions,” he said. “The higher-ups at AUArts are pretty strung in on the logo, so I doubt anything will change, but we’ll see what happens.”

In an email statement, AUArts said that Chilton would not face consequences for his posts, as students are entitled to their own personal, critical evaluation of the school. The university made note of the distinction between this and instances of actual vandalism, like the late 2017 destruction of a student art display.

“Actual physical vandalism of institutional property [versus] a creative digital manipulated interpretation is very different,” the school’s email read. “Only last year ACAD experienced first-hand physical vandalism of a student art exhibition which was a distressing criminal act and the police were involved. Creative expression like this, in contrast, is an expression of opinion that hasn’t harmed physical property.”

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