IUPUI campus art is a lot to be admired

By Diane Brown, IU Communications Specialist:

'Mother's Helper'

‘Mother’s Helper’

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” Pablo Picasso reportedly said.

A 16-foot highchair and a trail of brown ants are my favorite campus dust busters.

Perhaps your daily routine could stand a little dusting off. Let me prescribe a walking tour of the public sculptures on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus.

First stop should be that stone pyramid with a seasonal water flow. Wood Fountain — south of University Library along New York Street — is first and foremost a work of art.

The pyramid designers, Singh Associates, added the water function so it could also serve as a fountain. Singh is also the artist behind the geyser-like McKinney Fountain on the IU Bloomington campus.

Wood Fountain, completed in 1995, is one of 29 listed public sculptures on the IUPUI campus; others include the Chihuly DNA Tower at the IU School of Medicine and Punctuation Spire in the Campus Center. Some pieces are on loan, but many are owned by IU.

Chihuly DNA Tower

Chihuly DNA Tower

Sherry Rouse has been the curator of campus art for Indiana University for 16 years. She is responsible for the care and auditing of non-museum art on all seven IU-administered campuses, and she also chairs the campus art committee on each campus.

“(Each) committee is there to review large purchases and or gifts of public art for appropriateness, safety and preservation, and a number of other issues,” Rouse said. “I need to have the guidance of the local campuses to make good decisions, and they can use my expertise to make good decisions.

“Everywhere the eye rests it should see something of beauty,” said IU President Herman B Wells, according to the tagline Rouse uses on her email signature.

“Something of beauty” could easily describe her favorite item in the IUPUI public art collection.

“I am a big fan of the Chihuly, as I got to watch the installation, which was quite something,” Rouse said. The Chihuly DNA Tower is in the Morris Mills Atrium of the VanNuys Medical Science Building.

David Bowen's 'Procession of Ants'

David Bowen’s ‘Procession of Ants’

In 2009, IUPUI graduate museum studies students compiled a list of IUPUI’s public art on Wikipedia. While the list isn’t complete — some new sculptures have been added, others no longer are on view — the list is a good start for planning a tour.

Rouse offered this suggestion for how students, faculty and staff can really benefit from having access to the fantastic art on the IU campuses: “Open those eyes and really look at things,” she said.

One of my favorite campus artworks was featured in an @IUPUI tweet July 7.

“Procession of Ants” by David Bowen is in the flower bed on the north side of Taylor Hall. It is a trail of 15 steel ants that stretches over about 20 feet as they travel from east to west and up a wall.

As I mentioned earlier, my other favorite is “Mother’s Helper,” the 16-foot stainless-steel highchair at the west entrance to the Joseph T. Taylor Hall.

The chair’s rockers straddle a large Latin cross on which a bronze infant and dictionary sit.

'Mother's Helper'  Base

‘Mother’s Helper’ Base

According to artist Derek Chalfant, a Herron sculpture and furniture/woodworking grad, “the highchair represents nutrients needed for life; the rocker symbolizes rest and (nurturing); the baby with its head on the dictionary represents knowledge; and the cross is a symbol of spirituality — all ingredients needed for human growth.”

And a great piece for a great university!

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