Ackland Art Museum turns sixty

Ackland Art Center gallery
A gallery in the William Hayes Ackland Art Center during its opening weekend, 19-20 September 1958. (Scene cropped from a negative in the UNC Photo Lab collection.)

Birthed as the William Hayes Ackland Art Center, the Ackland Art Museum turns sixty today.  The art center held a special preview for UNC faculty on Friday evening, September 19, 1958.  The official dedication ceremony took place the next morning, featuring a talk titled, “The Role of the College Museum in America” by S. Lane Faison, head of the art department and director of the art museum at Williams College in Massachusetts.  The opening exhibition was a composition of paintings, prints, etchings, drawings, and sculptures from the collections of several college and university art museums across the country.

The university slated Joseph Curtis Sloane, then at Bryn Mawr College, to become chairman of the Art Department and director of the new art center.

Sitterson, Aycock, and Sloane
Welcoming visitors to the Ackland Art Center are, left to right, J. Carlye Sitterson, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; William Aycock, Chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill; and Joseph C. Sloane, incoming chair of the Art Department and director of the Ackland Art Center. (Scene cropped from a negative in the UNC Photo Lab collection.)

William D. Carmichael Jr., Vice President and Financial Officer of The University of North Carolina, accepted the building on behalf of the consolidated university.

William D. Carmichael Jr.
William D. Carmichael Jr. accepting the Ackland Art Center building on behalf of the university. (Scene cropped from a negative in the UNC Photo Lab collection.)

Photographic black-and-white negatives and prints in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Photographic Laboratory Collection document both events, plus a number of artworks loaned for the debut exhibition.

Care to learn more about the Ackland’s origins?  The Daily Tar Heel covered the story, including the background of the William Hayes Ackland bequest and the works of art in the opening exhibition on September 18th in advance of the dedication ceremony, and reported on the formal opening on September 21st.

 

 

 

Frank Deford could’ve passed for born and bred

“What I like most about Frank Deford‘s new novel—and I like many things about it—is the stunning fidelity with which it brings back to life a place and time that I knew intimately: North Carolina, Chapel Hill in particular, during the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. How he does this mystifies me, for he is neither a native North Carolinian nor an alumnus of the University of North Carolina; but he reveals himself in Everybody’s All-American (Viking, $13.95) to be about as close to a Tar Heel born and bred as any Baltimore Yankee (which Deford is) could ever hope to be….

“Deford recaptures the North Carolina scene dating back to 1954, the year his fictional protagonist, Gavin Grey, finished up at UNC. Not merely does Deford know all the words to all the songs, he knows the accents and inflections they were sung in and what the singers wore….”

— From “In Frank Deford’s novel, a football hero finds the hurrahs don’t last” by Jonathan Yardley in Sports Illustrated (Oct. 26, 1981)

Deford died Sunday in Key West. He was 78.

 

Where the richest kids go to college in North Carolina

“Students at elite colleges are even richer than experts realized, according to a new study based on millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records.

“At 38 colleges in America, including five in the Ivy League – Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown – more students came from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent.”

— From “Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours.” in the New York Times (Jan. 18)

By this standard the widest wealth imbalance in North Carolina is among students at Elon University, where 14 percent come from the top 1 percent vs. 9 percent from the bottom 60 percent. 

Also making the top-heavy 38: Wake Forest University (22 percent vs. 17 percent), Duke University (19 percent vs. 17 percent) and Davidson College (17 percent vs. 16 percent). 

At UNC Chapel Hill the ratio is 6 percent of students from the top 1 percent to 21 percent from the bottom 60 percent.

 

Is your professor a Republican? Probably not

“Professors registered as Democrats outnumber those registered as Republicans by a ratio of roughly 12 to 1 at UNC Chapel Hill – and in 16 departments zero registered Republican professors can be found….

“The College Fix researched the party registrations of 1,355 Chapel Hill professors using the public voter database maintained by the State Board of Elections….

“Spokesman Jim Gregory said via email that the university ‘does not hire faculty based upon their political affiliation, but instead upon academic merit.

“ ‘That said, we also feel that it is important for students to be confronted with views that they may not agree with or have not previously been exposed to, which we believe leads to the development of critical thinking skills….

“ ‘Our primary effort is to ensure that our faculty, regardless of their backgrounds, are sensitive to and respectful of the various beliefs and viewpoints raised by each of their students,’ Gregory said, adding the university does attempt to ‘achieve a measure of diversity across all domains’ but described achieving a perfect balance as ‘extremely difficult.’ ”

— From “At UNC Chapel Hill, 16 departments have zero registered Republican professors, analysis finds” by Alec Dent at the College Fix (June 20)

 

The original Frank Zappa: UNC, Class of ’30

frank zappa, sr.

“Frank Zappa Sr. was a [history] student at UNC from 1926 to 1930. He first made ends meet by working as a barber in town. In 1928 Zappa met fellow student Jack Wardlaw who was starting the Carolina Banjo Boys and convinced Zappa he could further supplement his income as a guitar player….

“Zappa bought a guitar in Raleigh and for the next three years played in two popular bands headed by Wardlaw…. In the Banjo Boys he played hillbilly and ragtime guitar, while in the Carolina Tar Heels he performed jazz music and Dixieland on both guitar and banjo.”

— From “Frank Zappa’s Musical Roots are from Chapel Hill” by Charly Mann at Chapel Hill Memories (March 12, 2012)

“[My dad went from Baltimore] to college at Chapel Hill, in North Carolina, and played guitar in some sort of ‘strolling crooner’ trio. (I still get birthday cards from the insurance company owned by Jack Wardlaw, the banjo player.) They used to go from dormitory window to dormitory window, serenading coeds with songs like ‘Little Red Wing.’ ”

— From “The Real Frank Zappa Book” by Frank Zappa with Peter Occhiogrosso (1989)

“One of these [serenaded] girls was Nel Cheek. It was a college romance, and Francis [Frank Sr.] and Nel were soon married. In November 1931 they had a daughter, Ann. Francis had graduated that summer and took a job teaching in Rose [Hill], North Carolina, but there he encountered prejudice: They didn’t like Catholics and they didn’t like Italians. There had been mounting problems between Francis and Nel, but the final break came when he decided to take a job teaching in Baltimore. Nel did not want to leave her family and friends in Chapel Hill. They divorced and Ann stayed with her mother.”

— From “Zappa” by Barry Miles (2004) 

The rock star Frank Zappa (Jr.) was born to Frank Sr.’s second wife in 1940 in Baltimore.

Ann Zappa, a retired educator, writer and Civil War re-enactor, lives in Chatham County.

 

Prof Watson: As failed rebels, Confederates got off light

“As punishment for losing civil wars go, the South got pretty lucky. It got to honor its military leaders with bronze statues. It got to name its streets and schools after Confederate leaders. It even got to keep symbols of the war, like the suddenly at-issue Confederate flag.

” ‘The Southern losers were treated with extraordinary leniency,’ said Harry Watson, a history professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill….

” ‘In most of the civil wars that I know anything about the losers were subject to much more serious repression…. They were sent to camps or they were shot or put in jail or any number of horrible things like that.’

“Two high-profile gruesome examples: The French Revolution in the 1790s that popularized the guillotine, and executions during and after the end of the 1920s Russian civil war that reached genocide levels.

“The losing sides’ flags in these cases were most certainly destroyed. In the case of the Russian civil war, Watson said, ‘If you flew the czarist flag after that war was over, or in Communist-controlled territory while the war was going on, you’d have been in very big trouble.’

“Watson thinks the North didn’t have the political will to remake Southern society after the war. He sums up the North-South peace deal this way:  ‘ “As long as you [the North] give us the right to rule these states,” said the South, “we will not demand national independence.” That was essentially what it amounted to. And the North said “OK.” ‘ ”

— From “Why is the Confederate flag still a thing even though the South lost the Civil War?” by Amber Phillips in the Washington Post (July 10)

 

Echoes of Sir Walter Raleigh in Mojave Desert crash

“Long before last Friday’s crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo in the Mojave Desert, the economist Brent Lane had been thinking about failed missions and Sir Richard Branson, Virgin’s adventurous founder.

“Lane, a professor of heritage economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the director of the school’s Carolina Center for Competitive Economies, isn’t an expert on space travel — far from it. He is, instead, a scholar of the explorer Sir Walter Raleigh and of entrepreneurial finance, and, for several months before Friday’s crash, which claimed the life of a test pilot, Lane had been pondering parallels between Raleigh’s sixteenth-century sea voyages and twenty-first-century space exploration….”

— From “Sir Walter Raleigh and the Uncertain Future of Space Travel” by Theo Emery in The New Yorker (Nov. 6)

 

Record collectors, academics find common purpose

“I’d spent most of the day in the archives of the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where a patient young archivist named Aaron Smithers had played me a stack of Blind Blake 78s….

“Despite most [78 rpm record] collectors’ contentious relationship with academia and with archives in particular, many still posthumously bequeath their records to institutions rather than burdening their already strained estates with thousands of pounds of shellac. The Southern Folklife Collection’s curator, Steve Weiss, estimated that nearly 95 percent of the SFC’s holdings were sourced from private collections….

“Interestingly, Weiss was grateful for collectors’ contributions not just to the archive he oversees but also to the broader notion of folklore as a viable academic pursuit — a field that didn’t really blossom until the 1950s and ’60s…. ‘They really have preserved the music, and they’ve promoted the music,’  he said. While there was sometimes tension between collectors and academics, there was symbiosis, too.”

— From Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records” by Amanda Petrusich (2014)

 

Classroom to cloakroom, Chapel Hill to Capitol Hill

How many professors have represented North Carolina in the House or Senate?

This somewhat imprecise list compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education says 11, each of whom taught at a different college — including of course UNC Chapel Hill.

 

Can oysters save NC coast from climate change?

“Antonio Rodriguez, a coastal geology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his colleagues spent 15 years measuring oyster reefs in intertidal zones on the Carolinian coast. In a study released this week, the team reports that, over the years, these reefs have grown at a pace that would match any future sea-level rise. According to Rodriguez, this is a good case for actively restoring oyster reefs on the East Coast. ‘One could end up with a reef that will help protect the shoreline from erosion, filter water, provide fish habitat, and be able to keep up with sea-level rise,’ he says. ‘No rock sill can do those things.’

“Oyster walls are dynamic, in other words. Conventional sea walls, tough though they may be, are static. After the ocean rises enough, waves will be able to swoosh over the top of stone walls. Oyster reefs grow by accumulating drifting oyster larvae that latch on and are kept in place by sediment buildup….

“If ‘oyster-tecture’ ever does happen — and Rodriguez’s research may help it along — it will be a great example of American adaptation to climate change.”

— From “How Oysters Can Protect Houses From Hurricanes” by Svati Kirsten Narulain in The Atlantic (May 5)

Not everyone, of course, believes oysters are needed for anything but seafood platters.