An art exhibit designed for people of mixed identities to share their experiences was defaced with the word “faggg” on Tuesday morning in the Student Union.
This is the second time in less than a month that an art exhibit at UConn was vandalized with homophobic hate speech and this instance occurred the same day as the UConn Speak OUT, an event held for the LGBTQ community to connect with allies and change campus culture.
The Asian American and Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Centers created the exhibit to showcase students with mixed identities. The exhibit was open for less than a few hours before the vandalism was discovered.
Adam Walsh, who was instrumental in creating the exhibit, said he was frustrated when he saw it, but not all that surprised.
“After what happened with the Rainbow Center’s exhibit I thought we might get something weird,” Walsh said. “But we can’t be afraid to do things because people might write something offensive. You can’t hide from who you are to escape the abuse; you have to live your life.”
He said he hoped the art could be something tangible for people to take with them who have been involved in mixed-identity panel discussions.
Others who contributed to the exhibit were also surprised at how quickly the vandalism occurred.
“I was speechless,” Meredith Nguyen, an allied health major who worked on a few pieces in the gallery said. “To happen less than 24 hours…and two incidents in one day.”
The second incident Nguyen was referring to was the censoring of a message painted on the spirit rock that originally read “Black Lives Matter.”
Varun Khattar, who closed out the UConn Speak OUT event, said it is clear that these are not isolated incidents and they need to be treated as indicative of a larger trend.
“Rather than focusing on the individual who committed the act, I think there should be a call for more dialogue and more community organizing,” Khattar said. “The administration has to take an active stance on these matters.”
Walsh agreed that the prevalence of these issues speak to a bigger problem.
“We’re a campus that prides ourselves on being tolerant,” Walsh said. “And yet, we see a lot of intolerant people.”
The exhibit was closed for the remainder of the day, but will be open for the rest of the week. The contributing artists were working late Tuesday night to add more pieces to the gallery.
“We didn’t want to start it off this way, but unfortunately these things happened,” Nguyen said. “If we continue to have speak outs and have our voices heard, it will slowly bring in other advocates and we can reduce the hate.”