Unlearn fear, hate


A student walks past the new Unlearn Fear + Hate sculptures in the Student Center on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Jade Grisham

UK’s Art Committee took powerful actions to add art to the new Gatton Student Center. These seven sculptures compromise the series “Unlearn Fear + Hate.”

The sculptures, by Lexington artists and Transylvania University faculty members Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova, are now installed in the hallway between the UK Federal Credit Union and the social stairs in the Gatton Student Center.

Each sculpture demonstrates a shiny metal halo with the phrase, ‘Unlearn Fear + Hate’ cut out in the seven most frequently spoken languages on campus — Arabic, Chinese, English, Hindi, Korean, Spanish and Swahili.

The words on the artwork come from a poem written by Frank X. Walker, a UK professor of English.

“The words ‘Unlearn Fear and Hate’ come from a poem we had commissioned Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X. Walker to write for another artwork,” Gohde and Todorova said. “These words had already spoken powerfully to many and so we decided to create works of art that spread these words in Lexington’s public spaces —as a reminder to all of us.”

Walker’s poem highlights unlearning hate and how doing so can further affect humanity.

“Love Letta to de Worl,” Walker said in his poem. “We can’t pass the course on humanity if we keep failing the lessons on harmony and until unlearn fear and hate.”

The art committee for the Gatton Student Center is co-chaired by UK Art Museum Director Stuart Horodner and Executive Director for Strategic Analysis and Policy Melody Flowers.

“Unlearn Fear + Hate was born out of conversations we started having with each other in the early summer of 2015 in response to two things,” Gohde and Todorova said in a joint statement. “Nationally, the increased visibility of acts of racial violence, which repeatedly revealed just how ailing and divided we still are as a nation; locally, these national occurrences led to city-wide conversations about the future of the two Confederate statues at Cheapside.”

Gohde and Todorova want to put art pieces on display that are more inclusive to all groups of people.

“These conversations, too, felt divisive and antagonizing,” Gohde and Todorova said in a joint statement. “We wanted to respond with an artwork that encouraged people to see each other’s humanity, despite our beliefs about race, religion, gender, sexuality or any other of the issues that divide us and make us unable to live as a community.”

Students and visitors are highly encouraged to take pictures with the sculptures with their head framed by the center circle. Those who use social media are encouraged to hashtag their image with ‘#unlearnfearandhate, so they can become a part of a chain reaction that brings awareness to those who are dedicated to peace, acceptance and inclusivity.

These art pieces are intended to bring positive inspiration not only to UK students and faculty, but to all those who will talk through the Gatton Student Center or see the photos on social media.

“Unlearn Fear + Hate has already traveled nationally and also internationally to different countries through a variety of activations— Bulgaria, Germany, Thailand, Australia and Turkey,” Gohde and Todorova said. “Last March we traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, to engage multiple communities with it. We are told the same thing everywhere we go: we need less fear and more understanding of each other.”