From the Archives: Pathways and Public Space

Lindsey Loeper ’04, American Studies, is an archivist at UMBC’s Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery.

Lindsey LoeperWhen we talk about the history of UMBC, the people of UMBC are usually the focus: What were they studying, how were they living, and what concerns or issues did they discuss or debate? But site-based and community histories often include a look at the surroundings, or built environment, of a community. What spaces were former UMBC students occupying? What does the development and growth of these spaces say about the priorities of our administration and student body? Just like programs, courses and policies, UMBC’s pathways and public spaces reflect somebody’s effort to change our institution for the better, so studying the spaces is one way of exploring the history of innovation on campus.

One aspect of UMBC’s physical space that has captured my interest is art, particularly when it has been displayed outside of the designated gallery spaces in the Library, Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, and The Commons. I am interested in how UMBC has chosen to use artwork to decorate or manipulate the landscape and how our students and staff have interacted with this artwork.

UMBC has a surprisingly strong tradition of large sculpture installations throughout our campus. In the photos below I have highlighted only a few, including several that are still visible on campus today. What do they tell you about the vision of their creators, and how do they resonate with you as manifestations of UMBC’s culture?

All images are from the University Archives, or were taken by me, unless otherwise noted.

“Boxes,” by Shane Eversfield Smith (1981). This installation was made by UMBC alumnus Shane Smith, circa 1981. It’s possible that this sculpture was located near the Library for a student exhibition; the benches in the photograph suggest that it may have also been installed by the UC or Academic IV buildings. In an article from The Retriever (vol. 15, no. 2), Smith describes his work: “Located in the upstairs library walkway, the ten identical modular units provide a glimpse of what may be the future in sculpture and design. As Smith put it, "My art is a revealing science, in that it follows a specific experimental design. It is a perpetual quest forever present knowledge." Smith continued to work on his sculpture and taught Dance classes at UMBC after he graduated.

This installation was made by UMBC alumnus Shane Smith, circa 1981. It’s possible that this sculpture was located near the Library for a student exhibition; the benches in the photograph suggest that it may have also been installed by the UC or Academic IV buildings. In an article from The Retriever (vol. 15, no. 2), Smith describes his work: “Located in the upstairs library walkway, the ten identical modular units provide a glimpse of what may be the future in sculpture and design.” As Smith put it, “My art is a revealing science, in that it follows a specific experimental design. It is a perpetual quest forever present knowledge.” Smith continued to work on his sculpture and taught Dance classes at UMBC after he graduated.

From The Retriever (vol. 6, no. 7): "Winged Earth" will span 80 feet of a sloping grassy hillside in an area bordered by the Library, lake, classroom buildings, lecture hall, and gym. The [Ron] Grow work will tunnel through the campus landscape, forming two walls which converge to a center point, then open outward into two large wings of graded earth.”

From The Retriever (vol. 6, no. 7): “Winged Earth” will span 80 feet of a sloping grassy hillside in an area bordered by the Library, lake, classroom buildings, lecture hall, and gym. The [Ron] Grow work will tunnel through the campus landscape, forming two walls which converge to a center point, then open outward into two large wings of graded earth.”

Now a peaceful courtyard tucked within the Chemistry building, this space was previously used for student gatherings and artistic performances. A large, metal sculpture dominated one side of the courtyard. The eclectic piece included animals (a kangaroo and birds), a large wheel, and a moving element that operated like a windmill. The creator is unknown.

Now a peaceful courtyard tucked within the Chemistry building, this space was previously used for student gatherings and artistic performances. A large, metal sculpture dominated one side of the courtyard. The eclectic piece included animals (a kangaroo and birds), a large wheel, and a moving element that operated like a windmill. The creator is unknown.

Not everyone was a fan of the sculpture depicted above. Many students questioned whether the work even qualified as art.

Not everyone was a fan of the sculpture depicted above. Many students questioned whether the work even qualified as art.

Students meeting in the Chemistry build

Students meeting in the Chemistry building courtyard.

Little is known about this sculpture. It appears to be sitting at the present-day site of a staff parking lot next to the new Performing Arts and Humanities building. This sculpture would have greeted people entering campus from Wilkens Avenue in the 1980s.

Little is known about this sculpture. It appears to be sitting at the present-day site of a staff parking lot next to the new Performing Arts and Humanities building. This sculpture would have greeted people entering campus from Wilkens Avenue in the 1980s.

Another hidden outdoor performance area, this courtyard in the Fine Arts building now faces the Performing Arts & Humanities Building. This installation includes artwork that is somewhat reminiscent of the present-day installation of flags above The Commons' Market Street.

Another hidden outdoor performance area, this courtyard in the Fine Arts building now faces the Performing Arts & Humanities Building. This installation includes artwork that is somewhat reminiscent of the present-day installation of flags above The Commons’ Market Street.

A popular campus landmark, our own True Grit was sculpted by UMBC alumna Paulette Raye in 1987. Named after the real life Chesapeake Bay Retriever that served as Raye’s model, True Grit welcomes people to campus and serves as a permanent display of UMBC pride. Image courtesy of Creative Services.

A popular campus landmark, our own True Grit was sculpted by UMBC alumna Paulette Raye in 1987. Named after the real life Chesapeake Bay Retriever that served as Raye’s model, True Grit welcomes people to campus and serves as a permanent display of UMBC pride. Image courtesy of UMBC Creative Services.

Although in a prominent location in front of the Administration building, this sculpture may go unnoticed by many people at UMBC. “Double Helix” by former UMBC student Robert DuBourg was purchased by UMBC and installed circa 1978. DuBourg also had a large marble sculpture at the Shot Tower Park in downtown Baltimore; this has since been removed.

Although in a prominent location in front of the Administration building, this sculpture may go unnoticed by many people at UMBC. “Double Helix” by former UMBC student Robert DuBourg was purchased by UMBC and installed circa 1978. DuBourg also had a large marble sculpture at the Shot Tower Park in downtown Baltimore; this has since been removed.

Inspired by German performance and sculpture artist Joseph Bueys, the Joseph Bueys Sculpture Park was installed in 2000-2001 as part of the Seven Thousand Oaks project. Bueys was interested in the role of sculpture and social spaces to craft and encourage public debate; the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture at UMBC has continued work in this tradition, holding site specific performance events in the Park. The Sculpture Park is also the location of one of UMBC’s recent student traditions: the public, anonymous notebook which is kept under one of the Park’s benches. Image courtesy of CADVC.

Inspired by German performance and sculpture artist Joseph Bueys, the Joseph Bueys Sculpture Park was installed in 2000-2001 as part of the Seven Thousand Oaks project. Bueys was interested in the role of sculpture and social spaces to craft and encourage public debate; the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture at UMBC has continued work in this tradition, holding site specific performance events in the Park. The Sculpture Park is also the location of one of UMBC’s recent student traditions: the public, anonymous notebook which is kept under one of the Park’s benches. Image courtesy of CADVC.

From The Retriever (vol. 11, no. 2): “’Mnemonic’ is a collection of steel trees in various stages of being chopped down. The sculpture is a statement that perhaps speaks to the construction of the students commons [the University Center] going on next to it. It is the work of Marc O'Carroll a sculptor who worked and studied here. The piece was made in our own studio and its construction took almost two years of dedicated labor.The word mnemonic refers to an aide to memory, derived from the name of the Greek goddess of memory Mnemosenye. O'CarroIl's trees are a statue in honor of, or recalling the memory of a huge and ancient sycamore tree which stood on this campus years before even Spring Grove was built here. When UMBC moved onto the scene the tree found itself behind the Dining Hall. It was an amazingly beautiful tree and O'Carroll enjoyed it during his first years here. But then one day the tree was gone. It was sawed down and buried (they couldn't afford to do anything with it) in order to build a short driveway for trucks to pull into (who cares about a dumb tree when there's a Macke truck at stake). So O'Carroll carried the memory of that sycamore with him until the day the school commissioned him to do a sculpture for the new Fine Arts building. Painstakingly he welded his memory into steel and now it stands on display for all to see. The tree is gone and so is Marc O'Carroll but the Mnemonic carries on.”

From The Retriever (vol. 11, no. 2): “’Mnemonic’ is a collection of steel trees in various stages of being chopped down. The sculpture is a statement that perhaps speaks to the construction of the students commons [the University Center] going on next to it. It is the work of Marc O’Carroll a sculptor who worked and studied here. The piece was made in our own studio and its construction took almost two years of dedicated labor.
The word mnemonic refers to an aide to memory, derived from the name of the Greek goddess of memory Mnemosenye. O’CarroIl’s trees are a statue in honor of, or recalling the memory of a huge and ancient sycamore tree which stood on this campus years before even Spring Grove was built here. When UMBC moved onto the scene the tree found itself behind the Dining Hall. It was an amazingly beautiful tree and O’Carroll enjoyed it during his first years here. But then one day the tree was gone. It was sawed down and buried (they couldn’t afford to do anything with it) in order to build a short driveway for trucks to pull into (who cares about a dumb tree when there’s a Macke truck at stake). So O’Carroll carried the memory of that sycamore with him until the day the school commissioned him to do a sculpture for the new Fine Arts building. Painstakingly he welded his memory into steel and now it stands on display for all to see. The tree is gone and so is Marc O’Carroll but the Mnemonic carries on.”

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Comments

  1. Romy Jones says:

    What an interesting post! I wish we had more permanent art installations on campus. It would make the campus so much more unique and inviting!!

    • Romy, I completely agree with you! I think it would be fun to feature more of these larger scale installations on campus. Whether they’re your taste – or not! The last four images in the post are all still on campus today.

      UMBC does have quite a few indoor gallery spaces throughout campus. The Library has several in addition to the large Gallery, the Fine Arts building has both the CADVC and the Visual Arts student space, there are two rotating gallery spaces in the Commons in addition to several murals, and the new PAHB is going to have rotating exhibit space as well. Our visual and performing arts communities have always been quite active on campus.

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