University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

The Artful Campus

President Sullivan with sculptor  Richard Erdman at the recent  installation of “Areté Blu.”
President Sullivan with sculptor Richard Erdman at the recent installation of “Areté Blu.” Photograph by Sally McCay

PRESIDENT'S PERSPECTIVE

The Artful Campus

UVM has a strong tradition of liberal education that promotes broad learning and cross-discipline connections. Integrating the sciences, humanities, fine arts, and business curricula across the University encourages students to develop into mature thinkers and curious, engaged public citizens.

Creating an environment for expanding viewpoints and perceptions occurs at all levels at UVM—in the storied halls and classrooms of our beautiful campus, certainly, and also in the surrounding landscape. This is the significance of public art on our campus. Whether gracing an open view or beckoning from a quiet grove, a first encounter with an outdoor sculpture makes an impression. The experience enriches perception. Suddenly the space that you walk by each day is transformed—and so, possibly, are you.

In the past year, the public art experience on our UVM campus has been made more dynamic with additions of abstract, pop-art–inspired, and contemporary sculpture, including “Flukes” by Gordon Gund P’91, P’93, “Sparkle Pony” by Kat Clear ’01, “Unlocked” by Christopher Curtis ’74, “Bus Ball” by Lars Fisk ’93, and the most recent addition, “Areté Blu” by Richard Erdman ’75, H’16. All are gifts to the University or on loan from the artist, all UVM alumni or parents of alumni.

It is exciting to be actively developing our public art program at UVM, expanding the aesthetic forms and rich references of our collection with opportunities for surprise, wonderment, questioning, or repose in the pathways and green spaces throughout campus.

Public art is an experience both personal and communal. It is different from entering a museum with the intention of viewing works of art. Instead, public art experiences happen to you. Frequently an encounter with a piece of public art is serendipitous—you come upon a sculpture for the first time and are stopped in your tracks by its inherent beauty, its form, or by the way the piece interacts with the horizon or landscape. You experience a sculpture that you didn’t set out to see, or see a form that might not necessarily resonate with your aesthetic or your way of thinking, and in that moment you open to another view of life—a view mediated through the lens of the artist. Bringing inner vision to outer form, the artist invites viewers to open perceptually in experiencing the work.

Sculptures can exert a magnetic pull, quickly becoming a well-visited and intimate place—a place for study, connection, or contemplation in the midst of relentless schedule keeping. “Unlocked,” the granite puzzle sculpture by Christopher Curtis installed last fall, almost instantly became a central meeting point for students, developing its own microenvironment within the landscape of the UVM Green.

Sculptures such as “Bus Ball,” with its round metal form and artifact interior, make you wonder how it was built, inspiring discovery. The curvaceous geometrics and dynamic upward thrust of “Areté Blu” can elicit a sense of movement and inspire questions about the artist’s message and intention. Organic forms such as Gordon Gund’s “Flukes” may spark an inherent recognition, creating a resonant feeling for the mammal that inspired the piece. And the many playful references in Kat Clear’s “Sparkle Pony” invite us to think about the artist’s sources of inspiration, and perhaps to explore our own.

These diverse sculptures in various expressions and styles complement our handsome nineteenth-century buildings at UVM. They create a dynamic presence between the traditional and the vanguard, between historic reference and open possibilities for the future. That physical closeness invites us to experience, to think, to open our senses, and to make meaning from our encounters, underscoring the University’s educational mission in this most aesthetic and tactile way, leaving memories that might last a lifetime.

—Tom Sullivan

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