October 29, 2020

Public art installed on campus, both embraced and rejected

Artist Willie Cole?s ?Pixels? was installed as part of the College's public art initiative (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)
Artist Willie Cole?s 'Pixels' was installed as part of the College's public art initiative (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)

By Brianna Gunter
News Editor
and Caitlyn Camacho

On the morning of Nov. 2, on the walkway behind Loser Hall, curious faces all gazed at two objects that had mysteriously appeared overnight, identical in every aspect except color. Two more appeared the following morning.

“I just want to know what they?re there for. They look okay but I don?t know how well they fit in,” said Kevin Reilly, freshman health and exercise science major.

The appearance of four giant spheres near the Art and IMM building, Loser Hall and the Music Building had many students, faculty members and staff questioning their purpose and function.

“A lot of people are attracted to the beauty and atmosphere of this school and the balls detract from that,” said Caitlin Dewitt, senior history and secondary education major.

“I thought they were giant ornaments that were going to be set up just for the holiday,” said Maria Heininger, senior chemistry and secondary education major.

The giant spheres are not ornaments, but actually a work by artist Willie Cole called “Pixels” according to a campus community e-mail from John Laughton, dean of the school of arts and communication.

“Willie Cole was selected from a roster of more than 75 artists with consultation from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a committee comprised of faculty, staff, and students from Art, IMM, Campus Planning, and the Art Gallery,” Laughton said.

“Pixels” is part of a public art initiative by the College and only one work in a set of many to be unveiled in conjunction with future building projects, said Laughton.

The funding for the balls was approved by the College?s Board of Trustees on Dec. 2, 2008. The minutes for that meeting show $100,000 was allocated to Cole.

According to Matt Pemble, sophomore art education major, the funding did not come from student tuition, but was part of the construction budget for the new Art and IMM building. “The money was Government mandated,” Sarah Jackson, sophomore art education major said.

According to Rachel Razza, junior art education major and member of the art student association, less than 1.5 percent of the construction funding was used for the artwork. She also said funds for building projects at the College are required to have 1 percent set aside for public art.

In response to student complaints about “Pixels” not actually being the square shape of what most people know as pixels, Jackson said “It’s more about their presence than shape.”

According to Pemble, in digital imaging and photography, pixels are actually circular.

Willie Cole is a New Jersey native and award-winning artist who has art in museums and other locations across the nation.

Katie Petrillo, junior art education major and member of the art student association, said “The dialogue that has occurred in response to the pixels is actually extremely desirable when it comes to the arts. Extensive discussion is oftentimes integral to more fully appreciating a piece of artwork in the end.”

“The moderate discussion we’ve encountered among the art majors is generally positive. The majority of art majors we’ve spoken to are ecstatic that (the College) finally has a public art piece to call its own,” said Petrillo.

The College’s future art gallery is set to move into the renovated Roscoe West Library by 2012, said Sarah Cunningham, director for the gallery.

“I am so thrilled that we here at the College are embarking on a public arts program … All art, and especially public art, is a catalyst for dialogue and community engagement. As the sculptures were being installed, I was delighted to see the campus-wide conversation begin,” said Cunningham.

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