New campus art reflects students’ experiences

"Bower" is the name of UNI's newest public artwork that is being created for Panther Village
"Bower" is the name of UNI's newest public artwork that is being created for Panther Village.

A "bower" is a shaded, leafy shelter made with tree boughs or vines twined together. "Bower" is also the name of UNI’s newest public artwork that communicates the same meaning: home, growth and a supportive community.

"I have a high regard for higher education and the profound changes people go through while in college. 'Bower' reflects that," said Lynn Basa, the artwork’s creator.

UNI’s Art and Architecture Committee selected Basa to create the sculpture for Panther Village, UNI’s new apartment-style residence hall that will begin housing students in fall 2012. Basa, a Chicago-based artist, has completed numerous public art commissions and teaches in the sculpture department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

This is the second time UNI has collaborated with Basa. In 2010, she created the terrazzo-floor artwork in the atrium of the recently renovated Sabin Hall. Under the Iowa Art in State Buildings law, one half of one percent of new construction funds is designated for public art.

"Bower" consists of nine steel columns, four of which will be inside the new residence hall and five that will be outside. Each column will be between 10 and 18 feet high with steel "branches" that reach up to and wind around four panes of glass at the top of each column. The glass forms a point, reminiscent of a glass house with a roof, and each "house" will be lit from the inside.

Basa said the size of each column and the way in which the branches wind around the glass houses vary from structure to structure because "everyone is different, and everyone has a different experience on campus."

The steel columns and branches are being made by two UNI students and two recent UNI graduates. Professor of art Tom Stancliffe trained the students in metalworking and is overseeing their work, which will be completed in August. Glass and lighting fabricators will then come to campus for their additions to Basa’s sculpture, which will be installed in and in front of Panther Village during spring 2012.

Stancliffe, who has built large sculptures for years, said, "Having the students work with an artist on a project is an important part of the learning process and a direct model of how they might proceed in the art field. Public art is definitely a field that students graduating from UNI can pursue."

The term "public art" typically refers to artwork that is displayed in a public space, is larger in size and takes several months to complete.

"There’s a myth that artists won’t make money – that you’ll be a 'starving artist,'" said Stancliffe. "That’s not true. As long as you approach your work in an entrepreneurial way, you’re fine."

Stancliffe said he and Basa discussed having UNI students fabricate part of the sculpture on campus because UNI’s art facilities are extremely well equipped and large enough for a project of this nature.

"The students benefit because they get to collaborate with an artist, they’re paid fairly, they gain great experience and they learn new skills," said Stancliffe.

Vicki Reed, art '10, is working on "Bower" by cutting, grinding and welding the steel columns and branches. "This is an invaluable experience, and it’s really opening my eyes to new ways to build things – and I get to do something for my school, too," said Reed. "Public art creates a sense of pride and inspires people to be creative themselves."

UNI students and recent graduates get to work with Chicago-based artist Lynn Basa on this one-of-a-kind sculpture.

UNI students and recent graduates get to work with Chicago-based artist Lynn Basa on this one-of-a-kind sculpture.