The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Passion Projects: Professor Georgia Frank Shares Her Love for Graffiti

Colgate University

Colgate University Professor of Religion and Chair of the Religion Department Georgia Frank shared her love of studying graffiti in a presentation on Wednesday, Feb. 28. The talk inspired students, staff and faculty to reflect both on what graffiti can tell us about human life throughout history and on what we can gain from pursuing our passions, whether in formal or informal capacities. Frank’s presentation served as the latest installment in the Passion Project series, presented by Dart Colgrove Commons.

In the talk, Frank discussed her experience looking at graffiti in various places, from modern Melbourne to the ancient Roman empire to the habitation of an eigth-century Christian monk. Frank does not teach about graffiti, nor does she consider herself to be an expert on the subject; nevertheless, she finds herself deeply interested in it.

“I find the more I want to study ordinary people’s lives, the more I [get] drawn to graffiti,” Frank said. “I’ve always realized it helps me see places differently.”

Throughout the talk, Frank highlighted the innate purposefulness and humanity of graffiti. While common conceptions of graffiti often consider it a mark of urban lawlessness or irreverence, Frank sought to demonstrate how people have employed graffiti throughout the centuries to make themselves heard. Senior Carly Spellman particularly enjoyed this aspect of the presentation.

“It’s really interesting and it kind of illuminates people across time,” Spellman said. “I’ve never considered the ‘learning about graffiti through the ages’ kind of thing.”

Spellman found a Roman inscription along the lines of ‘this person loves this person’ especially intriguing, noting that it was fascinating how some aspects of human culture had not changed in two thousand years. She also noted, more generally, that she enjoyed the opportunity to hear Frank speak outside of class on a non-curricular topic.

“I really love coming to the Passion talks,” Spellman said. “There is a lot you can learn from listening to people talk about [their passions], even if you don’t expect to get anything from it. Just listening to what makes people tick is really cool.”

Residential Fellow for Dart Colgrove Commons Janiiya Hart ’23 expressed similar takeaways from the lecture.

“I learned that teenagers will always be teenagers,” Hart said, referencing the same inscription as Spellman.

Hart also expressed her appreciation of the opportunity to listen to and get to know a professor outside of classes. She cited her own experience and encouraged current students to seize the chance to learn and enhance their time at Colgate by attending events presented by professors.

“Take advantage of all of the opportunities that not only this commons gives you, but the other ones as well, to explore the campus [and] relationships more on various levels with staff, faculty and other students,” Hart said.

Hart, who coordinates the Passion Projects series events such as this one alongside Professor of Biology Engda Hagos, was hopeful that more students would come to future talks, finding this one both enjoyable and eye-opening.

“This conversation made me realize the multiple ways that graffiti exists and how it impacts other people,” Hart said. “It was really fun and funny, and I wish more people were here to hear it.”

Events such as this one at Colgate are typically marked by moderate levels of student attendance. While Hart and other attendees did not find that the talk was in any way harmed by a dearth of participants, many present seemed to believe that the event could have been even better, had more students found the time in their day to participate in and learn from conversation with their professors and peers.

Hart, along with the other students in attendance, encourage that everyone at Colgate try out any events in which they have even the smallest interest. After all, that first step of exploration could perhaps lead to finding a new passion — and eventually may lead to sharing one’s enthusiasm for a topic with the rest of the community.

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