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Eli Capilouto: Memorial Hall art, ‘Witness,’ is a powerful context for more dialogue and conversation


The work of art that now frames the vestibule of Memorial Hall is appropriately titled Witness.

The word witness, I have been reminded recently, is both a noun and a verb. It speaks to the intentional act – the strong declaration – of telling a story.

And it stands as a testament to the idea, deeply embedded in who we are as a university, to the responsibility we each share to both observe and testify to notions of truth and value, community and belonging.

In other words, we are witnesses and we are to witness.

Karyn Olivier’s piece serves in compelling ways both senses of that word.

It provides further context for the mural that for decades has adorned the entryway to one of our most iconic buildings. And it testifies – it witnesses and proclaims – to the need for not only greater context, but more dialogue and discussion.

Witness, a piece by Karyn Olivier in Memorial Hall on August 19, 2018. (Photo by Mark Cornelison, UKphoto)

This piece, as powerful as it is, is not an end to the conversation or the debate.
It is not a period, but a comma.

There is – and there always will be – more to come, more conversation to be had, more debate in which to engage, more ways that we must share where we agree, but also where we do not. Our ability to engage in this way is what makes us stronger.

It should be a point of unity, not division. Karyn’s piece shows us how.

And that, too, is a testament to who we are and what we value at the University of Kentucky.

I hope you enjoy this video – a collegial conversation with two people, Stuart Horodner and Terry Allen – who helped bring Karyn and her artistry to campus. 

Eli Capilouto is president of the University of Kentucky


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