Johns Hopkins Gazette | January 5, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University January 5, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 16
New Initiative Sets Sights On — and Sites For — Public Art at Homewood

Jacqueline O'Regan and 'Deepwater Sponger,' which is on loan for a year. Two undergraduates, Yoonah Chi and Kirsi Tuomanen Hill, secured an Arts Innovation Grant to bring the piece from Baltimore's Artscape event to Homewood.
Photo by Jay VanRensselaer / HIPS

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

In November, a blue-tipped bronze tree stump with exposed tentacle-like roots appeared outside Levering Hall. The outdoor sculpture, titled Willow, was created by Martin Kline, an acclaimed artist whose works have been displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Baltimore Museum of Art and other major museums throughout the United States.

Now that Willow, a gift from university alumnus Stephen Mazoh (KSAS, '62) in memory of his brother-in-law, has taken root, the university hopes other such works of art will join it on the Homewood campus.

This past year, Johns Hopkins began to seek donations of outdoor sculptures to enhance Homewood's now pedestrian-friendly grounds and to raise the profile of the arts on campus. As part of this effort, the board of trustees' Committee on Buildings and Grounds, working with the campus's Cultural Properties Program and Office of Facilities Management, has created an Art Review Panel, an eight-member group that will assess gifts and purchases of public art, primarily outdoor sculptures. Consultants from the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum and elsewhere will be used on an ad hoc basis, depending on the nature of the work under consideration. The panel, comprising university personnel and a trustee, will have the final say on what public art the university accepts and where it will be installed, whether on a permanent or temporary basis.

The Committee on Buildings and Grounds also created "sculpture installation zones," tracts of campus that are designated for the permanent and temporary installation of sculpture. The permanent locations are two areas to the south and east of Levering Hall, behind Hodson Hall, north of Gilman Hall, behind the Johns Hopkins Club and a portion of campus bounded on the north by Mudd Hall and on the south by Remsen and Jenkins halls. A combined permanent/temporary zone, to be known as the Arts Walk, stretches from an area behind Shriver Hall to the circle in front of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library. A temporary-only zone sits to the east of Mason Hall.

The permanent installation areas exclude areas zoned in the master plan for building sites and those that are intended for public use. The zones also take into account existing artwork areas, such as the Bufano Sculpture Garden, which is home to 10 stone animals fashioned by Beniamino Bufano.

Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums and vice provost for the arts, said that what set the new policies in motion was the donation of Willow at about the same time that two undergraduates secured an Arts Innovation Grant for a year's loan of a sculpture from Artscape, Baltimore's public arts festival. The visiting sculpture, a piece by Charles Ponticello called Deepwater Sponger, was installed in the Mattin Center courtyard.

"When we were considering where to put these two sculptures, we realized we had no official policy from the trustees on where public art could be installed," Tabb said. "We wanted to determine with clarity who could decide what art we accept and where it goes."

Tabb, who chairs the Cultural Properties committee, said that unsolicited donations of public art have not been frequent. "But we expect them to come up more often now," he said. "We want to solicit more work and have an effective plan in place to show donors where it can be placed and generate more interest in the donation of aesthetically appealing art. We think this will also continue the beautification of the Homewood campus."

Tabb said that the outdoor sculpture initiative is also an outgrowth of the Homewood Arts Task Force, convened in 2004 by then Provost Steven Knapp, and the Cultural Properties Program, begun last year.

The university tapped Jacqueline O'Regan as its first curator of cultural properties, a position created to address ways in which the university collects and manages its extensive cultural resources. O'Regan, previously the curator of Evergreen Museum & Library, is responsible for objects that range from fine art and furniture to historical teaching equipment, photographs, architecture and sculpture. She is also responsible for creating policies for the collections of Homewood and Evergreen museums.

"We wanted one person to be responsible for coordinating the collection as a whole," Tabb said. "Jackie will oversee offers of art, fact gathering on all these works and ensuring their conservation."

Under O'Regan's supervision, Homewood's more than 30 outdoor sculptures will be cleaned and examined on a regular basis. The bronzes will be washed and waxed, damages noted and conservation treatments carried out.

This year, Cultural Properties contracted two professional objects conservators to conduct an assessment of all campus sculpture. As a result, priority treatments were undertaken on three works, including Sea Urchin, a working part of the fountain system in front of Nichols House.

O'Regan said that she envisions sculpture taking on a prominent role at Homewood, similar to the way it has on Princeton University's campus.

"Ideally, the university will attract some major artists over the next few years. I think that will do a lot for the campus, when people visit and see major works," O'Regan said. "Not only will these works enhance the campus, but I think they can invite a meaningful dialogue with students and faculty about the role of art in society."

So what outdoor sculptures will the university accept? Tabb said that a piece has to have aesthetic appeal, be "appropriate" for a college campus setting and be able to withstand the elements- -including probing hands.

"We don't want these under lock and key," he said. "These sculptures can be touched. We want them to be enjoyed and appreciated."


Inaugural Art Review Panel Members

Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums and vice provost for the arts

Jacqueline O'Regan, curator of cultural properties

Mark Demshak, director of architecture and planning

Elizabeth Rodini, associate director of the Museums and Society Program

Stephen Campbell, chair of the History of Art Department

Craig Hankin, director of the Homewood Art Workshops

Marjorie Fisher, university trustee

Christine Lambert, gift-planning officer in Development and Alumni Relations


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