Claims to Space and Public Art at Williams
Institutions like Williams College face a unique challenge when it comes to the issue of public art, claims to space. Claims to space are created by the publics, which use them. There are many publics which inhabit any given space on this condensed campus including students, faculty, staff, tourists and town residents just to name a few of the broadest groups. Each of these publics has their own goals, histories and uses for any given space on campus. Public art projects always have the challenge of gaining approval by the multiple publics affected by the project. On a campus as small and diverse as Williams College, this challenge is magnified. A solution to this is to implement public art projects before claims to space can be formed.
In the past few years, the college has undergone extensive building projects resulting recently in Hollander Hall, Schapiro Hall and the postponed Stetson Library Project. These buildings are examples of spaces of opportunity for public art. Institutions such as Middlebury College have implemented percent for art programs in which a small percent of total construction costs of a building is put towards a public artwork for that location. These types of programs often involve artists working with architects to design works that are integrated into buildings in ways that are not possible after construction. Furthermore, public art policy of this type is successful in small institutions such as colleges because claims to space are formed around the new art as much as the architecture of these buildings as they become assimilated with the rest of campus.
The recent additions to the public art collection at Williams encourage hope for more art in the future. While the percent for art program is an exemplary model of art integration in institutions, it is likely that other public art policy designs would fit better with Williams. The college should put effort into finding such a plan in short order because the building projects that have been recently completed or are currently under construction represent a missed opportunity on the Williams College campus in that the spaces and users of these buildings will not benefit from public artworks that could have been possible had such a plan been established earlier.
Evalynn Rosado, Williams ‘12
Detail, Rainspout Sculptures, 1981, Lee Hirsche with Georgia Glick (American, 20th century), copper and brass, Donated by Robert B. Miller, Class of 1928. Photo by Megan Cross
Detail, Wave Machine, 1975, Fielding Brown (American, b. 1924), steel, aluminum, and hardwood with electrical drive, Drive by Hugh Kirkpatrick. Termination by Bryce Babcock. Photo by Megan Cross
Detail, Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950), 715 molecules, 2011, sandblasted diorite table and benches. Gift of friends of J. Hodge Markgraf ’52, Ebenezer Fitch Professor of Chemistry (1930-2007), © Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (M.2011.7) Photo © 2011 Roman Iwasiwka.