Art plays an integral part in campus life at Grand Valley State University.
We visited the school's campus in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, when it was a venue for that city's recent ArtPrize exhibitions, but we first learned of GVSU's amazing art collection during previous visits to the school's main campus in Allendale, Michigan. Tim attended the school at Allendale for a couple of years, and I took a few images of the public art there during a visit when we roamed all over campus during a holiday break.
I'm not the only person to notice the wealth of art around GVSU's campuses. The school's extensive display of public art even merited mention in a college accreditation report.
The school celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year, and campus architecture is decidedly more modern than some of the older schools we've visited. College officials asked designers of the original buildings to seek out work by young artists as decor and to express the thought that the fledging college (it was Grand Valley State College originally) welcomed new ideas and methods.
The art collection began growing during the early 1970s, beginning with the 1973 acquisition of a couple of pieces by major American artists that included a sculpture by Dale Eldred from his Sculpture Off the Pedestal show at the Grand Rapids Museum of Art.
By 1999, the college had a 700-piece art collection. Today, there are more than 9,000 pieces of art in the GVSU collection, which include a number of large outdoor sculptures.
Having so much art on campus makes students think about whether and why they like a particular piece of artwork, and the school continues to encourage engagement with campus art. The GVSU Art Gallery Facebook page asked readers about their favorite campus art last year with plans to feature the top 50 choices on the gallery Web site and in a 50th anniversary book due out this year.
Here are a few interesting pieces of outdoor art I found on the Allendale campus:
Heaven and Earth by James Clover, steel with epoxy paint, 1991
I imagine this large sculpture would be particularly striking on a day with clear, blue skies, but this campus centerpiece still dominates the plaza where it sits and the ascending curves surmounted by a large star expresses the idea of working towards high aspirations to me.
The Iowa born Clover, an internationally renowned artist, taught drawing and sculpture for 30 years. You can see several pieces of his sculpture on GVSU's Allendale campus and on the school's campus in downtown Grand Rapids.
Untitled by Dale Eldred, mixed media and metal, 1973
This is the piece I mentioned earlier as one of the school's first big acquisitions. The 500-pound pendulum's movement causes its sharp point to etch designs in the sand below it.
Eldred, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, also had an international reputation for his large sculptures. He worked first in clay, but the influence of artists like Alexander Calder spurred Eldred to switch to using steel and wood.
Eldred died in 1993 when he fell while trying to rescue equipment from his Kansas City, Missouri, studio during a heavy flood.
Flowers by David Gibson, painted steel, 1998
I saw a couple of these cheery flowers around campus.
Gibson's pieces follow what one catalog calls the "Pop art tradition". These flowers, playfully magnified, make me smile (especially on a cloudy day like the one when I took these photos).
Arch VII by Susanna Linburg, bronze, 1995
Arch VII is one of a series of arches that Linburg started in the early 1980s. Lindburg likes the arch motif for its echoes of ancient Roman or Greek architectural elements and allusion to themes like stability versus vitality or passages through life.
Lindburg was born in Richmond, Indiana. She attended Indiana University and earned an MFA from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Linburg settled in the Detroit area, teaching fine arts at the city's College of Art and Design at the Center for Creative Studies from 1963 until 1991.
Other pieces in Linburg's arch series found homes at the Dennos Museum in Traverse City, Michigan, and at the Center for Creative Studies.
Here are a few more of my stories about related topics:
Want to learn a more about Grand Valley and its early history? Check out my story from earlier this week: Blendon Landing tells a tale of early western Michigan history
Interested in other public art in Michigan? Check out Art in Detroit Public Places: Third Edition by Dennis Alan Nawrocki. I found some of the background information on Susanna Linburg and her connection to the Center for Creative Studies in this book.
Interested in public art and its relation to community? Check out Public Art: Theory, Practice and Populism by Cher Krause Knight or The Art of Placemaking: Interpreting Community Through Public Art and Urban Design by Ronald Lee Fleming.
© Dominique King 2010 All rights reserved