Thoughts on Art

Features, Top Stories — By on September 14, 2012 12:24 pm
Matthew Brennan Photo by Rachel Keyes

Reading the Unreadable

Richard Landini, a past president of Indiana State University and a former professor of literature, once spoke at an English department scholarship ceremony and made the offhand remark that he found the poetry of William Wordsworth “unreadable.”  I did too when I first read “Tintern Abbey” as a college sophomore.  But I later changed my mind. 

The heart of the poem comprises Wordsworth’s attempt to articulate “the sense sublime” and how his experience of this elevating, mysterious force in nature restored him during a time of alienation, loneliness and low spirits.   The poem, however, relies on general language.  For instance, when Wordsworth describes the sublime, he chooses indefinite, sometimes vague words: “And I have felt  / . . . a sense sublime / Of something far more deeply interfused, / Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, / And the round ocean and the living air.”  Moreover, this sense, we’re told, “impels / All thinking things.” I accepted that “Tintern” must be a great poem because my teachers told me so, but the poem left me alienated and dumbfounded.

My senior year, however, I studied in England and was again assigned “Tintern Abbey.”  This time I read the poem through Wordsworth’s eyes.  Literally.  For I visited the Lake District, touring the landscapes that lie behind his poems, which evoke the sublime, often through narratives with specific settings.  I discovered that the landscapes sparking Wordsworth’s poetic epiphanies can be vividly realized by readers’ imaginations. 

Such was the case when I walked high into the hills surrounding Lake Windermere and, standing among straying sheep, watched a rainbow arch across the water.  Line 10 of Wordsworth’s “Ode” on immortality—“The Rainbow comes and goes”—leaped into my mind.  Experiencing such landscapes that abound in northwest England and in Wordsworth’s verses also reinforced my encounters with the landscape paintings I’d been gazing at during trips to the Tate and the National galleries, paintings Wordsworth himself saw at art shows while visiting London.  So, by retracing some of Wordsworth’s steps, walking in his shoes, I now could appreciate his poetry and knew from my own experience of the poems and their environmental and artistic contexts that they were not only readable, but also, to my taste, profound. By going to the Lake District and looking at art, I absorbed what inspired his poetry and could finally sympathize with Wordsworth.

Wordsworth knew that one had to share his taste to feel the power of his poems.  Richard Landini, whom I admired greatly, was a scholar of T.S. Eliot and thus no romantic, so even if he had walked around the lakes in Wordsworth’s boots, he never would have seen the light.  But Wordsworth’s poems about the sublime answered something deep and unformed in me and led me to see, as Wordsworth sees, “with an eye made quiet by the power / Of harmony, and the deep power of joy.”  I learned to read “the light of setting suns,” even in Terre Haute.

Matt Brennan is a professor of English and a poet.


What is Art?

Sherry McFadden Photo by Rachel Keyes

Art, to me, is the only way human beings have been able to move forward through history with any hope of progress. Why? Because art is necessary for us to figure out who we are, where we belong, why we belong and how to move forward. For the artists, it is a way to express their inner most feelings and opinions about the world around them. For the viewer/audience it is a way to travel inside as well as outside of ourselves and sort out complicated questions about being and knowing.

The scientific world has helped us advance as a race in amazing ways not to mention having longer life spans, charting uncharted territories and helping steward our world.  Without art and the way of thinking that art demands, those advances would be useless.

In ancient times, art and performance were necessary for taking information from one group to another, a way to feel connected to other humans experiencing life on this earth. As time progressed, art has become many other things such as a status symbol or an investment.  It is also, however, still very much a way to communicate with other humans experiencing a complicated and dynamic world.  

I have worked in theater for more than 30 years and never tire of telling stories, which is essentially what theater does. I love that so many different arts come together and must work together to create theater. Theater demands that you look at a situation and evaluate it by your own standards. It can make you feel good, bad, angry, sad or indifferent, but it will make you think and feel.  As a costume designer, I have studied art history, drawing, painting, sewing, dyeing and a myriad of sub categories. All of these areas have given me insights into the past, present and possible future. In the theater one is a constant student. You are always learning. 

Art is our connection or lifeline with one another. Cutting the funding or the curriculum by cutting art is severing that lifeline and makes us more interested in ourselves than in the world around us.  We are a part of the world and must connect. We don’t all have to be artists, but we all have to honor and appreciate what art can do and has done for society.

Sherry McFadden is an associate professor of theater and interim director of the theater department.


Art Saves a Life

Tom Steiger Photo by Tony Campbell

Hieronymous Bosch saved my life.  That’s an overstatement, but had I not been introduced to his art in the third quarter of my freshman year, I’m confident I would not be a professor today.

Despite my high school record, my start in college was underwhelming.  My high school strengths in math and science seemed to stay home with my car and my weaknesses in the “expressive” disciplines were as obnoxious as the steamer trunk my parents sent me to school with.  Thankfully, the University of Florida faculty believed every student must study the humanities.  I was coming to grips with a decision to not return to college for my second year when I couldn’t avoid the humanities in what was shaping up to be my last quarter: Dr. Lewis’ HUM231, which focused on art history.  Yuck!

And yuck it was.  I didn’t get it and didn’t really care, until “imaginative art” and Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights.”  When I opened the color plates of my text book and looked at the triptych, I “understood” it without having to read the turgid text.  As Dr. Lewis went through his usual pattern and asked the class for reactions to it, I raised my hand to a surprised Dr. Lewis.  It was at that moment that I felt I still belonged in college.  My grades began to improve.  It still took me a while to find an academic home, but eventually I did, and was back to earning the same kind of grades I had in high school by the end of my sophomore year.

Bosch’s painting depicted the Garden of Eden (paradise) on the far left panel, the “garden of earthly delights” (the world) in the center panel, and hell on the left panel.  Hell captivated me.  In fact, some art historians argue Bosch painted himself into hell and before I even knew that, I spotted the “tree-man” and thought, “there I am.”  Paradise is serene, the world libertine (to me banal), but hell is fascinating. Of course, my “understanding” of the painting was all wrong but that didn’t matter (I saw heaven, earth and hell).  For the first time, I was seeing meaning and not just the surface of the art.  And it mattered little if I understood it the way the art historians did or not, it provoked a reaction in me.  I felt like I was communicating with the artist.

A print of “Garden of Earthly Delights” hung in my faculty office for 20 years (until a windowed office took away my wall space).  I positioned it so that students couldn’t help but see it.  “Garden” was the best conversation starter imaginable.   I shared it, and my story, with many students, some of whom were struggling as I did.  I don’t know if “Garden” had a similar effect on anyone else, but I put as many students as I could in art appreciation courses.  And over the years, the students who I’ve had the closest relationships with were expressive and “artsy.”    

Tom Steiger is the director of the Center for Student Research and Creativity.


Art and Leadership

Brad Balch Photo by Tony Campbell

As a campus administrator, effective leadership is a professional imperative.  Imagine leadership as an artisan: a large landscape with a beautiful horizon defining the image in a way that brings out all the color and tone.  This image is actually a composite of a leader’s overlapping and complementary knowledge, skills, and dispositions—sometimes referred to as the head, hand and heart of leadership as Nicholls wrote in a 1994 issue of the Leadership and Organization Development Journal.

Leadership is often described in artisan terms because of the craft-like nature required for effectiveness.  Other researchers all defined leadership in artisan terms.  Thinking in these terms, I am reminded of my favorite hobby—stained glass.  Starting with the raw materials of lead, copper foil, solder and glass, I use my knowledge to create a design and skill to assemble the piece.  Further, the assembled piece must stand the test of time by supporting its own weight and resisting elements such as wind and rain.

When I first began designing and assembling stained glass, my designs were small and simple.  They had small flaws such as poor joinery, improperly cut glass or too much leading.  Over time, my skills improved, I gained much greater knowledge of the materials I used, the designs were more masterful, and individual pieces had an overall sense of harmony in relationship to the larger design; my stained glass projects matured from trinkets to treasures.  Mastery came with ample reflection after each project regarding what worked and what did not.   

The same artisan and craft essentials are necessary for leadership.  Effective leaders have a deep knowledge of the organizations they serve.  These same leaders have a “feel” for their practice that only improves over time.  Whether it’s understanding the pace of change, assessing situational context,  or knowing what issues require your immediate attention above all else, this “feel” equals and sometimes supersedes theoretical understanding.  Most importantly, improvement comes from daily reflection regarding what worked and what did not.

I am further reminded of the artisan nature of leadership each day when I arrive for work in the Bayh College of Education’s University Hall.  I’m greeted each day by a pair of gargoyles located in the corners of the exterior doorways.  These theatrical symbols of comedy and tragedy adorning our building have an enduring presence with roots in ancient Greece.  The comedic gargoyle reminds me that I should look forward to work each day and maintain a sense of humor to keep myself grounded in good common sense.  It was former four-star general and US president Dwight David Eisenhower who wisely said, “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.”

The tragic gargoyle reminds me that I must be willing to change, that I must be willing to be responsible for my mistakes and that I must not fall into comfortable patterns of behavior that do not serve the college well.  In the absence of this vigilance, tragedy will surely prevail.

The college is also home to a Gilbert Wilson mural. This large mural, through form and color, describes a persistent problem facing civilization today: waste.  The artist effectively communicates that the waste of earth upon which we live and waste of human life can only result in social and cultural aridity.  As a leader, this mural serves as a powerful reminder that organizational culture matters.  Healthy cultures include stakeholders (e.g., students, faculty, and staff) who hold belief systems consistent with the mission of the organization, are committed and confident in their roles, and minimize wasteful energy expended on uncertainty and ambiguity.  Effective leaders are always assessing culture to ensure it is healthy.

Indeed, art and artisan skill is a leadership cornerstone.  As I continue to mature in the role of leadership, my ability to interpret the power of art as an important metaphor for effective leadership only sharpens.  I hope you will take time to visit the Bayh College of Education’s University Hall and enjoy the powerful artisan influence infused here.

Bradley Balch, PhD ’98, is the dean of the Bayh College of Education.


Drawing on Art

Brad Venable Photo by Tony Campbell

I saved many of the drawings and paintings my children made as they were growing up.  I have many.  Periodically, I look through them and each time, I am amazed.  They are filled with energy and pureness that I envy.  Some are inspired by a holiday, like the one of colored Easter eggs nested under a satisfied bunny or the zigzagged branches of a decorated Christmas tree.  Many are result of the interests that captured their imaginations at their young age. Those by my son include Superman, bow-legged cowboys or sword-wielding knights in armor.   In my daughter’s stack are drawings of My Little Ponies, adorned princesses and rainbows. There are scribbles, too, that for some reason struck me and ended up in the pile.  The lines wander about the surface seemingly without direction, and then there is a section carefully rendered, filled in with details of dots, dashes, or small circles.  What these represent, I am not sure, but for them it was vastly important.

These early explorations in art are important to a child’s development.  Not only do they provide opportunities to develop fine motor control and eye/hand coordination, but more importantly they allow children to make sense of the world and their relationship to it.   This belief was promoted by many in elementary education in the 50s and 60s, articulated best by art educator Viktor Lowenfeld.  His book, “Creative and Mental Growth,” co-authored by W. Lambert Brittain, laid the foundation that inspired art teacher preparation programs for decades.  Here, they affirm that art offers a unique opportunity rarely available in other subjects, where children develop a strong sense of self, emotional balance and the spiritual values needed to become a well-adjusted contributor to a democratic society.  Instruction was centered on the process of art making for each child, rather than their products.  Teaching art was a subtle and engaging practice of understanding students individually, their stage of development, and facilitating unique opportunities that would allow them to grow and mature.  With time however, developments in the world necessitated modifications to this belief.

Sweeping initiatives in math and science education that began as a result of the Soviet space program and launch of Sputnik had an unfortunate, though not necessarily deliberate effect on the arts.   Support for art education, and other classes considered “non-core” (music, home economics, etc.) was scrutinized, and as a result some programs were reduced or eliminated.  In the early 80s, new developments in art education curriculum helped to counter this trend.  Discipline-Based Art Education was a new call for clear and concrete objectives in art production, art history, art criticism and the philosophy of art.  Learning experiences progressed in a linear fashion, building on foundational understandings and skills.  Student learning was observable and unlike the classroom activities based in Lowenfeld’s theory, regularly assessed.  Along with this development, many states began adopting standards for art education that reflected the principles of this disciplined approach.  In a sense, art education was held to the same rigorous expectations as other disciplines. 

Today, like other subjects, art education has begun to respond to issues in contemporary society.  Seemingly outside the traditional domain of art, topics such as gender, the environment, cultural diversity and the growth of technology have been encountered as sources for needed learning.  Current art education, which still includes a discipline-based approach, now regularly includes objectives that celebrate the arts and traditions from other cultures, tie into other subjects through inter-disciplinary studies, and promote world-view thinking.  Contemporary visual culture, for example, is increasingly a topic for learning in art education. Children, immersed in a barrage of imagery, are helped to decipher meanings that are rarely self-evident.  Helping children to examine this world takes time and requires a delicate balance of critical viewing and a respect for cultural traditions and values.

It is evident today’s children grow up in a world fully more complex than those before them.  Their needs seem monumental.  It is uniquely unfortunate that at a time when art can be so vitally important to young people, its presence in schools is again being challenged. The high-risk stakes of student achievement based on the results of multiple-choice standardized tests is often causing many school corporations to reevaluate curriculum.  This combined with a lack of funding is putting many programs in jeopardy.  There aren’t any simple solutions.  Perhaps the first realization is to agree to that, and then begin earnest conversations on how we best prepare our young people to meet the needs of the future.  It is a future that will not only include art, but will also need quality educational programs to help understand and appreciate it.

Brad Venable is an associate professor of art education.


Part of Being

Nancy Cobb Lippens Photo by Rachel Keyes

As I start my seventh decade (it is very difficult for me to admit that!), I realize that when I attended elementary school, I took a lot of things for granted.   After all, I had music and art class every day for all six years of elementary school.   The fourth, fifth and sixth graders participated in a play every year, and we were able to audition and “win” a part in the play.  I remember being excited that I was chosen for one of the main parts in the play; I suspect it was because I could memorize and not for any acting ability.   Nevertheless, I was in a play!   I can also still picture my fourth-grade classroom where 35 of us sat at our desks and played “tonettes.”  For the uninitiated among you, a “tonette,” was an inexpensive, easy-to-play instrument that elementary students were exposed to as a “pre-band” instrument.   I haven’t seen one in years, but  I’m sure there are many readers my age and slightly older and younger  who can still conjure up the sound of the “tonette” in their heads (elementary music teachers now use recorders).

Granted, I am a professional musician and I have spent my entire working life in the world of teaching music.   I realize I am biased.  Although it may sound trite, art IS for life.  It is as much of a part of being human as science, math, history, languages and any other discipline.

The arts are as old as, and as much of a part of our human story as, science, mathematics and history.   Archeologists continue to unearth musical instruments that were used many thousands of years ago.  They also continue to find drawings and artistic objects.   Sometimes those drawings depict an “event” that was clearly some sort of “play” or presentation.  The point is, as long as humans have been around, there has been artistic expression.  That expression might have been the story of the hunt that day or it could have been an attempt to “freeze” something in time.   No one had to tell these humans that they needed to participate in the arts:  it was part of their being.

At ISU, we just began a new Community School of the Arts (CSA), one of the Unbounded Possibilities grant recipients.  This community outreach program seeks to involve community members of all ages in quality arts education.   Although some young students who participate in this program might decide to spend their lives being professional musicians, most will not.  However, the confidence students will have because they participated in arts programming will follow them the rest of their lives.

I recently attended the final “performance” of our first summer guitar camp sponsored by the CSA.  As the program began, eight students, ages 6-12, entered the “stage,” (which was really just part of a classroom).   The students all held their guitars in “professional” poses, they bowed and then they sat to perform five or so selections together.    One of the most important words is “together.”  In our world of business and industry, one of the most important concepts we can gain is that of “teamwork,” and how disparate parts join together to create something larger than the sum of the parts.   This was very apparent in the performances of this group of guitarists.  They had to perform together:  some students had a bass line, some had harmony and some had melody.  They had to “agree” (under direction of the teachers, an ISU faculty member and a graduate student) on playing the piece at the same tempo, or rate of speed.  The satisfying product was impossible without teamwork.  Yet, each child had to be able to accomplish something on his or her own to be able to participate. 

The story of the performance at the end of this one class exemplifies the vision we have for the Community School of the Arts.     Not only will we be a destination for non-credit arts education, we will also provide teaching experiences for ISU arts majors.  This will be a “value added” component to their already stellar curricula.  Furthermore, they will also have experiences in supporting each other in collaborative arts experiences. Community members will be able to find their artistic expression through crafting pottery, learning acting or playing the piano as they let the arts become a part of their beings.

Nancy Cobb Lippens is the director of the School of Music.


Extending the Vision

Bruce McLaren Photo by Tony Campbell

I think of photography as a way to extend my vision of the world. Although I can’t paint or draw, I’ve always taken pictures to capture what I see.My early experience was with my grandfather who specialized in close-up still life pictures of flowers – we have hundreds of his 35mm slides. In college, I learned how to develop my film and make black and white prints in the darkroom. In those pre-Photoshop days, I gained an appreciation for taking the right picture – it was hard to fix mistakes in the darkroom.

Today I specialize in two areas – fine art photography and pictures of our grandchildren, both inspiring subjects to me. Most of my fine art pictures are about nature – from spiders to flowers to a great blue heron to sunsets. I have enjoyed taking pictures of trees for the annual Trees Inc. photo contests. Three of my pictures of blooming trees are hanging in the gallery of this year’s contest.

Photography has changed the way I look at the world. I am always thinking of best angles, framing, and overall composition while looking for “photo ops”.

It is said that the best camera is the one you have in your pocket, and I generally carry three cameras with me – a digital SLR, a pocket camera, and yes, my iPhone. Each has its advantages. And while I carry the memories of film photography, I shoot exclusively in digital now. As I walk across campus, it is not unusual for me to whip out a camera and shoot pictures of squirrels, the fountain on a sunny day, our campus gingko trees, and so forth.

I know how to use Photoshop, but to me the best picture is the one that is “good enough” right out of the camera. Of course, I tweaked things in that B&W darkroom years ago just like I tweak digital pictures today in the computer, but my composition goal is to be at the right subject at the best time of day from the best angle.

A photo by Bruce McLaren

For example, we toured through Italy and enjoyed seeing the beauty of that country, particularly from the viewpoint of a photographer. However, the tour would visit certain sites as the schedule allowed, not necessarily the right time of the day to take photos. Photographers know that noon is the harshest light, and early morning or twilight offers the ideal color for many fine art photographs. So I would like to go back to Italy and choose the best time of day to visit Tuscany or Positano or Venice.I’ve pondered about ways to share my art. We have pictures hanging in our house, from small prints in a triple frame to a large autumn leaves picture hanging over our fireplace. I create photo note cards as gifts, and have pictures in online galleries such as shots chronicling the construction phases of the new Federal Hall building. Each year I create a photo calendar with favorite shots for my family.

I’ve tried to learn as much as possible about my photography hobby. I owe thanks to two people – ISU Professor Paul Hightower and university photographer Tony Campbell for patiently answering my questions, reviewing my shots, and giving suggestions for new techniques.

The human eye has an amazing ability to view a scene and blend the very bright images with the very dim portions, and see all of it. The modern digital camera is not so flexible. What I am trying to do is to capture what my eye sees – truly sees – and depict it in a digital photograph so that the same balance occurs. I am getting better at those high dynamic range shots, but I have improvement to go.

Bruce McLaren is the associate dean in the Scott College of Business.


Musings on the Muses

Tom Johnson

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is often quoted as saying that life without music would be a mistake. Many would probably agree that this applies to the arts in general. In our post-enlightenment world, science has frequently been given pride of place, with some writers even claiming that science is “humanity’s greatest invention.” However, the rigid separation of art and science (and religion) is a recent development, and one that many in the arts and sciences have begun to question.By training I am a social scientist, and by avocation I am a musician and composer. I am also a self-confessed science “junky.” (If anyone out there has a home for 30 years of Discover magazine, let me know.) Two of my favorite authors are the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould and physicist Paul Davies. Despite this, I find claims that science is our crowning achievement to be very arrogant. In fact, it is possible that science itself might provide the ammunition to refute such a claim. In his book “The World in Six Songs,” neuroscientist Daniel Levitin argues that much of human culture and civilization has been created or at least facilitated by the fact that since our earliest ancestors we have been, and continue to be, musical beings. He describes how music may have contributed to forming social groups and coordinating human action, fostering positive emotions, comforting us in times of distress, providing a framework for ritual and stability, facilitating the transmission of knowledge and expressing our deepest loves. For Levitin, music, and perhaps by extension other forms of art as well, are foundational. We would not be human without art.

Levitin notes that people in the US “spend more money on music than they do on prescription drugs or sex.” Why do people like music and other forms of art so much?  The science of experimental esthetics has attempted to answer this question, but many of the results from such research seem to me to resemble what I call the “Goldilocks effect”; i.e. we like things that are not too loud, not too soft (or not too fast, not too slow, etc.), but “just right.” In absence of conclusive scientific data, both professionals and laypersons alike have often relied on their personal tastes to define art. (“If I don’t like it, it ain’t art!”) Is there a way to define art that is separate from our own personal preferences?

Definitions of music have tended to be of two types. Formal or structural definitions define music in terms of what it “looks” like (form) or in terms of its parts (structural). Perhaps the most famous such definition is composer Edgard Varese’s statement that music is organized sound. Functional definitions ask “What is music for?” “What does it do?” In a paper published in 2000, neuroscientist Steven Brown defined music as “a group level communication system whose sound-devices and meanings are socially structured and socially exploited.”

If music communicates, what, if anything can it communicate? Does art in general say anything? Artists themselves have debated this question and come up with different answers. Aldous Huxley and Victor Hugo both claimed that music can express things that cannot be adequately expressed in words. Perhaps this is one reason we need art. The philosopher Wittgenstein closed his most famous work with the statement (originally in German) what we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence. Perhaps a better ending would be that what we cannot put into words, we must dance, sing, play, paint, sculpt, act out or otherwise commit to art. It could be argued that even art which relies on language (poetry, novels, etc.) is most successful when it takes us beyond the words into feelings or worlds or experiences.  

Art and science are both grand human inventions. Scientific studies have suggested benefits of arts education. For example, musical training has been consistently shown to lead to enhanced mathematics skills. While some claims for benefits of music or arts training have undoubtedly been exaggerated in the popular press, there are solid studies that demonstrate such benefits. However, we should not have to justify investing in arts education because it might make kids get along better with each other or because it may help develop other, more traditional academic abilities. If art makes us human, then we cannot, we dare not, be without it.

Tom Johnson is a professor of psychology and director of the Center for the Study of Health, Religion, and Spirituality.


Art Collaboration

Mary Kramer at the "Emmanating Connections" sculpture dedication.

The collaborative projects involving Art Spaces and Indiana State University have been important to the formation and growth of Art Spaces.  Several pieces in our collection are on the ISU campus.  Through placement of public sculpture (those in the Art Spaces collection as well as others), the university demonstrates that art has a firm role to play in a vibrant learning environment, while also offering an amenity that will attract members of the surrounding community to campus.    The arts are fantastic tools for engagement and understanding and public art enlivens and adds meaning to spaces that we inhabit or pass through. One strong example of this is a piece installed in 2007 in Gilbert Park.  Conceived by ISU Alumna Lauren Ewing, “Composite House for Terre Haute” was inspired by her interest in architectural typology, which she had studied at ISU.  The piece is designed around the style of Victorian composite cottage that was commonly built here for working class families during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  It was common enough to become known as the “Terre Haute-style house,” and many still exist in Terre Haute’s oldest neighborhoods, including the area on the south edge of Gilbert Park.  This sculpture is a strong example of a site-specific public work whose content is unique to Terre Haute, linking to our history, our community’s character and also an important Indiana natural resource, limestone. 

As another example, Doug Kornfeld, of Boston, Mass., was inspired by the new ISU Recreation Center and the goals of the university in providing this impressive center as a gateway to healthy living.  By designing his large scale “Runner” specifically for that location, Doug activated the space and the entrance to the building in a way that may be experienced from both inside and outside.  He even provided lighting that would allow for shadow play at night.  “Runner” serves as a symbol of what the building embodies on a scale that emphasizes the importance of good health to the campus community.

Sometimes it is a good exercise to imagine these sites without the art – once we have pieces in place, we tend to forget what it was like without them.  Things and places can feel humdrum when you don’t have something larger than yourself, or more thought provoking than your ordinary daily routine, to captivate your thinking.  One of the things that I always appreciate when I see public art is that it can alter the course of your day.  Public art gives people pause to consider things.  While it is true that not everyone will like the same piece of art, it is also true that everyone can find some piece of public art to like. 

This knowledge drives the intentional diversity of our collection.  ISU has been a terrific collaborator in this regard with interest in the broad experience that many different types of sculpture can provide.  If you want a bright and lively city, or learning environment, public art is an important tool.

Currently many artists working in the public realm are applying their creative thinking skills and aesthetic sensibilities to solving infrastructure and environmental challenges. Examples include water clean-up, water purification, water transport (think storm sewer runoff) and projects that address other critical systems.  They partner with engineers, businesses and government to solve problems and resulting projects are often startlingly practical, environmentally sustainable and visually exciting, while also educating us about resource use and disposal. Next year, as part of 2013 Year of the River, Art Spaces plans visits to Terre Haute by several artists working nationally and internationally in this regard.  ISU will be a partner in these visits and the artists will spend time with students, as well as exploring possible sites on and off campus for future projects.  Public art and an ongoing partnership between Art Spaces and ISU help to keep the boundaries between the city and the campus open and inviting.    

Mary Kramer is the executive director of Art Spaces in Terre Haute.


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  1. Dr. Steven Dingfelder says:

    I really enjoyed reading the well written and informative ISU Magazine.

  2. Cassie Major says:

    These articles have proven, once again, how important the arts are to a well rounded education!

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