Encountering Through Site Visits

 

Encountering Through Site Visits

Site visits were an important component of the program because they allow students to confront the monuments and works that they might see everyday. Giving them some background and some time to engage with the works leads them to identify the larger ideas within the work.

 

The site visit to Light Up is a particularly successful example of a lesson that connects public art to the community where it is displayed. The first part of the lesson encouraged students to walk around the sculpture to find any signage for the work. After it was revealed that there was no signage or plaque, the leading teaching mentor gave the students the history of the work, both verbally and on a printed timeline handout. The Westinghouse Electronic Corporation commissioned Light Up in 1971 for the plaza at Gateway Center. The abstract nature of the sculpture left people confused and unimpressed. In 1985 the work was removed from the original location and placed in storage, until the University of Pittsburgh requested to display it on their main campus in 1989. Knowing these facts about the sculpture, students were asked to create a sculpture for their community to fill a public space in the same way that Light Up fills a space on campus.   

 

The activity for this lesson instructed students to create an imaginary public work to fill an empty space in their community. They then interviewed other students to discover what others had created, which also prompted them to discuss their own work. Each student was tasked with speculating how their community would react to the work they created. A few students mentioned that their works would be misunderstood or ill received. One student drew a fountain like sculpture, and jokingly said that people would “shoot at” his work. This statement recognizes that public art can be a source of discontent or confusion. Relating this activity back to the larger picture of the Encounters Project, we can see that these students understand that there is a controversial side to public art. The activity encouraged students to occupy different mindsets because they must think beyond their artistic choices to speculate about how others will receive something they have created. Although the activity is imaginative, the students are exploring the role of the artist and thinking about filling empty space with something they have created. 

Categories: 
  • Encounters
  • Undergraduate Work