Monday, June 27, 2011
A Relaxed Atmosphere
The Art Barn was many different things to the students, faculty, and staff who came and went there over the years. To Darnel Haney, the Art Barn was a refuge from the racial tensions on campus and in the community in the early 1960s. Haney is an African-American from Arizona who was recruited to play basketball for Utah State University. He related to us some of his positive and negative experiences at Utah State during that tumultuous time.
"I was contacted by Utah State. At that time the head basketball coach was Cec Baker. They had won the NIT the year before, and they were looking forward to a great year in basketball. . . . That was a disaster that first year; it was absolutely a disaster. We had conflicts in basketball, on the court. We were rated first in the nation, and we didn’t live up that expectation. The coach was fired that year and much of it had to do with my being there at Utah State. . . . The players were in disarray and were constantly at each others throats, and the community felt that I was responsible for much of this. In all the frustrations which you have in a community, I had no one who I could talk to.
"I was an art major, and during my frustration I would go to the Art Barn. I had an adviser by the name of Larry Elsner who took the time and talked to me. They blamed much of the non-success of Utah basketball team on me. At the time I was dating my wife. She is a white girl from North Logan, Utah. She wasn’t a student at Utah State, and they did not like that situation at all. As I remember, Larry Elsner was one [of the] neatest people I have ever met, because he himself was married to a Japanese woman. Occasionally he would talk to me about situations. He said 'My marriage is not recognized in this community either.' . . . He was a quiet giant, I call him. Larry was just a sweet person, had limited conversation, but what he said, it meant a lot.
"I would go to that Art Barn many times and throw pots. Throw pots means you put them on the wheel. You could take your frustrations out there. . . . We would sit in the Barn until 11 o’clock at night, throwing clay, making pots, doing what have you. It was a sort of therapy for me. And it was a lonely time for me because I had very few friends.
He remembers that the Art Barn was a place with "a lot of enthusiasm. I walked in there and there were a lot of people doing different things. It was a relaxed atmosphere. There was a freedom in there that was not every place where you go on a campus. Smiles were there and helpful hands were always there. And most of all the instructors were just a part of the students. It wasn’t just a person up there, an authority, but he was a part of his class."