Hidden treasures, sculptures on campus
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Many students around campus wonder about the mysterious sculptures and their significance to UIS and Sangamon State University.
Jasmine McAllister, senior pre-med clinical psychology major said, “I wish we had more [sculptures] on campus.” She also asked, “Why are they here?” McAllister, like other students, wishes that the sculptures would draw more attention. The two sculptures, Impermanent Column and Window’s Edge are “only seen when you leave campus,” said McAllister.
UIS was founded as Sangamon State University in 1969. Many pieces of artwork have been donated to the school for a more collegiate feel. The most recognizable art on campus are the sculptures that can be seen around.
The iconic symbol of UIS is the Colonnade, otherwise known as the fountain on the Quad, was designed as the symbolic center of campus. Though not a sculpture, it is a feature that most relates to UIS.
According to Michael Miller, associate professor and chair, for the art, music, and theatre program, said, “A colonnade is a Greek architectural feature. St. Peters in Rome has one of the most famous colonnades in the world. It’s a reference to the Greeks and knowledge.”
The Colonnade was selected as the central and ideal development for the Quad’s anchor point by former Chancellor Richard D. Ringeisen.
It is under the general assumption that these sculptures should be more centrally located. Students can then have access to view them more easily. The Charles H. Spaulding Memorial Fountain, located to the right of Brookens Library, not currently functioning, appears to be lost in the side of the building.
According to the UIS Library Archives Special Collections and Illinois Regional Archival Depository, the Charles H. Spaulding Memorial Fountain, “is a stylized adaptation of the precipitator which Charles Herbert Spaulding incorporated in his portable water purification unit. The sculpture is approximately eight feet in diameter and four feet high and made of polished stainless steel.”
The fountain was presented by Spaulding’s wife Kathleen and his children.
Standing where the Colonnade now is, Window’s Edge, is a 20-foot steel sculpture by former associate professor of visual arts, Robert Dixon and was dedicated on September 19, 1991. The sharp red sculpture can now be found at the main entrance of the university leading towards PAC.
The historical significance of the sculpture is that it’s “officially dedicated in honor of George Hoffmann, one of the people instrumental in the founding of Sangamon State University.”
Dixon views his sculpture as a study of polarity and contrasts. “The contrast of shadows,” he explains, “is as vitally important to this finished work as the presence of light is to the process of seeing.”
Impermanent Column, created by sculptor Thomas Skomski, appears to be multiple leaning columns, located near Window’s Edge at the main entrance of the university. The celebration ceremony for this sculpture was dedicated to Sangamon State University on October 25, 1993. It is “made up of four limestone gray concrete columns, each weighing 12 tons and standing nine feet by seven feet by seven feet.” This sculpture was specifically designed for a university setting.
What many students think on campus look like yellow French fries, are actually yellow linear steel elements of a sculpture called, Dodger, created by John Henry and dedicated to UIS on May 22, 2012. This sculpture can be found at the front entrance of the PAC teardrop. Henry, a well-known sculptor in the Midwest, also has a sculpture in front of the Illinois State Museum. The 15 foot high artwork was donated to UIS by Robert and Ruth Vogele, as they bought it from Henry in the 1970s. It was a personal piece in their home. The sculpture is “arranged to intertwine in dramatic fashion.”
According to the UIS Development office, Henry is known for his large-scale works of art. Henry’s “trademark style has been described as ‘drawing in space’ in such a way that his sculptures deny the weight of the separate elements and appears to reach into the sky.”
“It’s interesting to put things on campus, because students, young people, have a way of accepting things quicker,” said Henry. “I really hope people come away with a different idea of structure, a different idea of the man-made environment.”
Miller explains that the Art and Acquisitions Committee wants to bring more art sculptures to campus as soon as next year. These four small scale sculptures will be centrally located on the quad next to where the new student union will be, equipped with sitting areas. “There is a lot of space to build on. The campus is growing and this is a great opportunity to bring more art sculptures to UIS,” said Miller.