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Michigan State University

Art for All

Emergence Sculpture

Art for All

A torch of rusted bronze that climbs from the ground outside Fairchild Theatre. An abstract collection of crumpled steel that leads the way to Beal Garden. Bright red flanks of steel dancing in the wind at the entrance to Biomedical and Physical Sciences. There are hundreds of amazing public art pieces on MSU’s sprawling campus. Over the next several pages, take a closer look at a handful of the human-made pieces that bring out the beauty on an already special campus.

The sun shines on the stainless-steel structure, golds and silvers sparkling and fluttering. Almost as if it is aflame, “Victoria” illuminates the Breslin Student Events Center day in and day out. Since being installed in 2017, the piece, which is lit by 96 bulbs at night and sits near the southwest corner of Breslin, has been a gateway to 1855 Place—a marker on campus. Or, as Steve Troost, campus planner and Public Art on Campus Committee member, says, “It gives a sense of ‘there’ on campus.”

Since 1999, when the MSU Public Art on Campus program was initiated by Board of Trustees action, a percentage of the construction cost of every new major facility or renovation project has been earmarked toward an art component. That decree has resulted in over 145 works of public art sprinkled across campus. 

Echo Sculpture
"Echo" at the Brody Complex Courtyard is an aluminum work by Barbara Grygutis. The work is inspired by the invisible sound waves that emulate from the nearby amphitheater and reverberate onward in space.
Funambulist Sculpture
"Funambulist" at Snyder-Phillips Hall by John Van Alstine is made of painted steel. The name, “Funambulist,” comes from the Latin “funambulus,” meaning rope dancer or tightrope walker. The sculpture aims to connect with the students who make Snyder–Phillips Hall their home. “Navigating through college requires students to perform a balancing act while remaining daring, bold and creative,” says the artist.
Beal Gardens Gate Sculpture
These imposing metal gates to the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden were created by artist Albert Paley. The design represents the natural interweaving of vegetation. Paley is the first metal sculptor to receive the coveted Institute Honors awarded by the American Institute of Architects, the AIA’s highest award to a non-architect. The gates are one of currently only 50 or so site-specific works created by the artist.
Twyla Sculpture
At the Grand River parking garage, "Twyla" by Bill Barrett is made of fabricated bronze. The work is named is inspired by both the artist's granddaughter Twyla and the professional dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp.
Victoria Sculpture
At the Breslin Student Events Center, "Victoria" is constructed of stainless steel by Curtis Pittman. "Victoria" celebrates the victory of academic achievement.

Not only does art give a sense of “there” on campus—think “Meet me at Sparty”—the art is meant to create discussion. Per the program’s authorization by the board, “The creative work of sculptors, painters and graphic artists enriches a learning environment, stimulates lively discussion and evokes aesthetic appreciation.”

Public art is one of those amenities that enhances a community culturally and  in turn helps attract a vibrant and diverse population. - Tom Berding,  Dept. of Art, Art History and Design

That tenet remains important. From massive sculptures to abstract paintings, East Lansing is filled with stunning works of art meant to spark conversation. Walking around campus, students and visitors alike face pieces meant to provoke thought.

“Universities encourage growth,” Troost says, “and public art can impact any and everyone who walks through campus.”

Wind Rapids II Sculpture Detailed photo
“Wind Rapids II” by Russell Thayer was designed in part to be a “bright arrow” pointing to the recessed entry of the building complex that is otherwise invisible to passersby.
Emergence Sculpture Detailed photo
The sculpture “Emergence” by John Medwedeff is installed in front of the Fairchild Theatre on the MSU campus. It is 12 feet tall, and the bronze is taking on a beautiful green patina with age and weathering. It is shown in full above in this piece.
Victoria Sculpture Detailed photo
A close-up of "Victoria" near the Breslin Student Events Center.
Detailed photo of "Twyla" Sculpture
A close-up of "Twyla" near Grand River Avenue.

Explore more art

Works of public art can be found in nearly all corners of  MSU’s East Lansing campus. 

There is more to public art at MSU than the structures featured in this piece. Head into a building on campus, and it is likely you will find a piece of art on a wall or a smaller sculpture in a hallway. With hundreds of works, there is plenty to see. 

The seven works featured in this piece are shown on the above map, and hundreds of other pieces are also scattered across MSU’s 5,300 acres. For images, information and locations of all pieces, check out MSU’s Public Art on Campus site:

Map of East Lansing campus with locations of artworks featured in piece.

All photography by Aran Kessler.  

Author: Liam Boylan-Pett

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