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Artist details sculpture for new education building

Tom Nussbaum met with the College to talk about his art piece, which ‘reflects both the architecture of the new building and that of a historic schoolhouse.’ (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

By Melisa Easaw

The College held a public arts forum last Wednesday to introduce the selected artist for the public artwork to be built outside the new school of Education building.

The selected artist, Tom Nussbaum, met with members of the campus in Physics Building room 101 and unveiled a scale model of the sculpture he will create. The sculpture will be made of anodized aluminum with imagery from American quilts in it and will be 22 feet tall. The shadows formed by the cut-outs in the sculpture “double the visual effect,” Nussbaum said.

“The form of the sculpture reflects both the architecture of the new school of Education building and that of a historic schoolhouse,” Nussbaum said.

Nussbaum explained how certain aspects of the sculpture symbolize different things. For example, the bell and compass at the top “symbolize students going out into the world.” A question mark “indicates the idea of inquiry that’s important to education.”

Nussbaum said that his overall goal was to “create something that is wonderful to live with,” and hopes that his art will become “a beacon for the school.”

Another of Nussbaum’s goals was to make the artwork accessible to a wide range of people.

“The sculpture itself is designed to be touched,” Nussbaum said, adding that there will be an audio guide for visually impaired students that others can use as well.

Lynda Rothermel, the campus architect, spoke about the artist selection process. The selection committee requested a proposal from 10 artists, and six of those artists returned proposals. Three artist interviews were conducted, and the committee selected Nussbaum. The sculpture and the school of Education building will be completed in 2012, Rothermel said.

Tom Moran of the New Jersey State Council of the Arts gave an overview of the history of public art.

“Public art is not a new idea,” Moran said. “Public artworks are embedded in the public psyche.” He described how cities sought to create new identities using public artwork during the early 1960s.

Carol Bresnahan, provost and executive vice president of the College, began the forum by saying that the theme of the artwork is “Hard Times,” mentioning that the Great Depression of the 1930s is when the United States “got serious about public art.”

The chair of the school of Art and Interactive Multimedia, Anita Allyn, said that public art is important “for a vibrant and creative campus community.”

“My hope is that public art’s function is to ask ourselves a series of questions,” Allyn said, echoing Nussbaum’s comment about the importance of inquiry in education.

In an e-mail statement, Bresnahan said, “The event provided the opportunity to explain publicly the inclusive process that led to this choice, the vital role that the arts play in contemporary society, and why art is not a luxury, but a necessity, on a campus that values discussion, ideas and the environment.”

“I liked how they gave all the background of public art,” said Colleen Andrews, senior graphic design major. “I think it’s helpful for people to see what else is going on in public art.”


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