An Art Critic Tours Texas A&M

AN ART CRITIC TOURS TEXAS A&M Roughneck Statue at Texas A&M University, College Station, TexasOn a recent visit to College Station, Rice and UT Grad Rainey Knudson tries to get past Texas A&M’s fortress chic: “So yes: to this outsider anyway, the A&M campus feels unattractive, humorless and a little silly. They have more bronze statues than you can shake a stick at, there are overbearing messages of social conservatism everywhere, and if you’re interested in good art, you’re out of luck, at least in the public spaces. These people couldn’t paint bigger targets on themselves for ridicule if they tried, right? And yet: the president of the school famously leaves the door to his house on campus unlocked. Students and faculty will tell you not to lock your car, that you could leave a computer lying somewhere on campus and it would still be there when you get back. And it would. That’s the flip side to all the sanctimoniousness at A&M: there really is a palpable, profoundly likeable sense of honor at the place (and I’m not just saying that because it’s one of their six core values that’s repeated all over campus.)” [Glasstire] Photo: Rainey Knudson

21 Comment


  • I didn’t go to any Texas school (or college for that matter) so I’m not a T&M defender but this line “overbearing messages of social conservatism everywhere” made me laugh. To a liberal (or progressive) this must seem shocking. I clicked the link — images of hard work. Honesty. Teamwork. Respect. GASP! THE TERROR!

  • Reminds me of Robert Earl Keen’s “Out Here in the Middle” a really great honest accounting of the pros and cons of conservative rural America, many of which seem even more distilled in College Station.

  • Touche, when I went to UST, I had to dodge roaming hoard of hipsters, starving artists, and other underachievers with low hygiene aspirations who use the campus as shortcuts. Like any other urban college I had to make sure I always had at least one appendage on my laptop, don’t leave any valuable or even a sandwich visible in the parked car, and if you have to leave after dark, make sure to suck out and swallow all my gold fillings, lest they be stolen.

  • pretty neat read for anyone who hasn’t been there and is causally interested in seeing the campus. the “thanks to our wives” plaque is a little weird. seems like a lady’s class ring would be more appropriate intertwined with the man’s ring? We also are allowed to attend college after we’re done with the dishes :p

  • @winewinewine so did some digging on the Sul Ross Group (people who placed that wives plaque). The group is made up of all classes that are at least 55-years removed from graduation. So in ’08 that would have been the class of 1953 and older. Which means none of those former students wives would have been able to be students.

  • Fascinating….I always assumed commonsense was a 65 year old man. Shame on me for commenter profiling.

  • Liking the couple pics of brutalist architecture and would love to see more. Have an aggie degree though never had a reason to visit college station myself, but I think that’d be the greater find in it all. Being able to spot the developments over a historical timeline and see how all the architectural phases of the last century have been captured on campus.

  • so statues inspiring hard work and the entrepreneurial spirit = overbearing social conservatism to an art critic..not surprised but i actually read her article and it seems pretty objective and not the knee-jerk UT grad leftist bashing that I expected.

  • True story: many of the statues on campus are actually old Ags encased in carbonite. It’s a surprisingly lucrative fundraiser for the Alumni Association’s Estate Planning team. “Gig ’em!” “I know.”

  • @winewinewine

    I’m guessing that the “thanks to our wives” is because that plaque (and probably some accompanying monetary donation was made by the Sul Ross Group of 2008. That means it is made up of the members of the Class of ’58 and prior classes. As that was before women were admitted to A&M, none of their wives had their own Aggie rings (unless they were “sweetheart” rings that men of that era have been allowed to purchase for their wives).

  • It does seem a very even-handed article. It’s interesting how many of the reviewer’s first takes were corrected by commenters, or even some of his friends, with information that he did not have readily available (and few punters would). A lot of it is dealt with in a very evenhanded manner in the comments, which make a pretty useful appendix. What I take away from those discussions is that A&M may be a public university, but the campus is very much designed and decorated for the students rather than the rest of the state. They are able to interpret the meaning behind the art, but the rest of us can’t. The school is more concerned with conveying and reinforcing meaning among its population than in conveying that meaning to us. I guess I can understand that idea – the students will take their ideas out into the world soon enough, and so it just seems like a different method to reach the same end goal that UT has – educating the populace. I can see pros and cons to both methods.

  • By ANY standard it IS an ugly campus.

  • I’m surprised how critical he was of the Bonfire Memorial, since it appears to be the only abstract sculpture on campus. It’s pretty obvious that Aggies like their art to be literal.

  • @Sihaya – interesting that you read the article and didnt notice the writer is a WOMAN.

  • Stuck Up Leftist Know-it-all Visits A&M Campus

  • It’s a fair look at the superficial surface that you see wandering around on campus without any guidance. It is a utilitarian place with a lot of meaningful things going on that you have to know about to notice in the first place. I agree that the comments make for a good appendix, but all of that information would have been eagerly provided by nearly anyone associated with the university that didn’t have the phrase “overbearing messages of social conservatism” on the tip of their tongue. Anyone that read the big longform piece in Texas Monthly back in the late 90’s on A&M got much the same vibe, but with a professional journalists’ approach. That article read like it was started as a hit piece and ended up with real, not grudging, appreciation. It’s a special place, if you’re too dedicated to the academic grievance du jour to notice, that’s your loss. It’s not going to be everyone’s favorite, thankfully so.

  • Mike, no I didn’t. Does that change the content of the article or your opinion about it? Interesting is right.

  • A&M’s omnipresent inferiority complex, no never..

  • Blah.. I visited that campus and it was dry, stale, and full of howdy’s. Glad I chose UT!

  • Tell that to guy that stole my bike from the rack a few steps from where that photo was taken. It didn’t even make it to Thanksgiving break my freshman year in ’97.