COVID, Dancers, Rush Part of ’23 Class Painting

Senior Kate Kerr created the artwork, which leaders titled “The Class of 2023 Experience”. (Photo: GAA/Cory Dinkel)

A seven-foot canvas painting depicting the four years the class of 2023 spent at Carolina hangs in the Student Union, and senior leaders hope it will be replaced next year by artwork from the class of 2024, starting a new tradition.

Kate Kerr of Hope Mills, a member of the senior class who’s double majoring in business administration and Russian, was commissioned to create the artwork, which depicts a female student wearing a mask and sitting in Davis Library looking out onto the quad. Also in the painting are dancers, the Old Well, Rameses, the Tar Heels’ 2022 NCAA Final Four win over Duke, and more.

“It really was an honor to be able to paint something that really represented my time here at UNC,” Kerr said. “They asked me to do something celebratory, so I was thinking of the different things that made the class of 2023 unique, because I feel like the class is unique. We were in the Final Four. We beat Duke. Everyone rushed Franklin Street.”

Senior Class President Kartik Tyagi came up with the idea of a canvas hung somewhere highly visible on campus. He and other students refer to the artwork, located on a wall in the Student Union’s side entrance near Great Hall, as a mural.

Left to right: Kerr, senior class vice president Keisha Solanki and senior class president Kartik Tyagi. Solanki said Kerr’s creation was just what she and Tyagi had hoped for. (Photo: GAA/Cory Dinkel)

The project came together late in the semester and three students vied for the job. Kerr’s creation was just what Tyagi and Keisha Solanki, senior class vice president, had hoped for. “We wanted to put together some sort of statement on campus that would allow students, seniors in particular, to either take a piece of campus with them or leave a piece of themselves here before they left,” Solanki said.

“I thought it was very incredible and very meaningful to have a member of the class of 2023 be the artist,” Solanki said. “The charge we’d given the artists was to draw our experience here, and I think Kate did a very good job of capturing the COVID years without it seeming grim. She also showed how we’ve rebounded.”

Kerr said creating the artwork, which leaders titled “The Class of 2023 Experience,” in just three weeks was fun but a struggle as she was juggling final projects, weekend classes, planning a move, job logistics and graduation. “When they said mural, I thought I’d be painting on a wall, which I’ve done many times before, including inside Morehead Planetarium,” she said after the unveiling of the painting. “But when I realized it was a canvas, I had to figure it out, so I watched some YouTube demonstrations and talked to some people, including frame makers at a Raleigh art store.”

GAA President Douglas Dibbert ’70 complimented Kartik Tyagi and Solanki for their leadership and commended Kerr for her artwork before encouraging students to stay connected to UNC. (Photo: GAA/Cory Dinkel)

Kerr drove to her father’s house in Southern Pines to use his power tools to cut wood for the frame. She then loaded a dozen or so long planks into her Honda Civic, drove back to her off-campus apartment and put the canvas together.

Kerr said she’s been selling original arts and crafts since age 11 and majored in business to learn, among other things, how to present her work to others and write business plans.

GAA President Douglas Dibbert ’70 complimented Kartik Tyagi and Solanki for their leadership and commended Kerr for her artwork before encouraging students to stay connected to UNC. “This is a glorious occasion,” he said. “This is a glorious time of the year, and we look forward to seeing the kinds of exciting things that you do in the future to bring credit to your alma mater.”

After graduation May 14, Kerr plans to travel abroad.

“I want to relax and unwind because it’s been a stressful couple of years,” Kerr said. “My hands are covered in so many callouses and cuts right now from rock climbing about three to four times a week in Fetzer Hall. I’ve been saving money, and this commission helped a lot, so I’ll probably unwind in the mountains of Spain and do some rock climbing for a few months. I don’t really need a $100,000 job. I just need enough [money] to travel — at least in the short term.”

— Laurie D. Willis ’86


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