Christ Church has invited students, fellows, and staff to submit art of their own creation to decorate the College hall during its refurbishment.
In an email from chaplain Revd. Ralph Williamson, members were urged to “discover your creative side and draw, paint, photograph, print, collage to your heart’s content”. The project was conceived following the decision to cover or remove the extensive portrait collection while repair works are carried out on the roof until March.
Submissions – one per person – are required to be of a certain size, and are not guaranteed to remain undamaged by the renovation.
Revd. Williamson told The Oxford Student: “The project has generated considerable interest here. It encourages the making of art among our members and will stimulate a healthy discussion about the role of images in our society.”
First-year student Brenda Njiru reported an enthusiasm among students to “have their artwork lying on top of Henry [VIII]’s face”. Although a policy against anonymous submissions is likely to deter more risqué artworks, members of all abilities are being asked to contribute and bring the hall to life again, since, as Njiru comments: “Our hall is sad. It looks bleak and really rather boring.”
Christ Church hall famously acted as the model for Hogwarts’ own in the Harry Potter film franchise, as well as containing inspirations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland books, and as such is a focal point for the College’s many tourists.
The hall will be closed to visitors during the renovation, and the College’s admission fee has been reduced to reflect this. For the meantime, students have expressed dissatisfaction with the take-away low-grade curry as “plastic cutlery is not quite Christ Church style”.
However, others are delighted not to be constantly in the glare of “dead old men”, and hope the project will encourage the college to address the gender balance of the portraits going forward.