Class gift creates new public art fund, first piece acquired

Last Wednesday, the College announced that the Class of 1961 has formed a public art fund as a gift to the College. The class has committed to raising $2.5 million to support the acquisition of artwork, which will be displayed around the campus.

President Falk will appoint a standing Committee on Public Art that will work to administer the fund. The committee will be chaired by the new director of the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) and will represent faculty, staff, alumni and students. An annual meeting will take place during which the committee will identify suitable sites on campus to display public art. The fund will be overseen by the provost’s office.

According to Lisa Corrin, the outgoing director of WCMA, artworks that will be purchased may be existing works or commissioned pieces. Some will be placed outside and others indoors “to offer an opportunity to consider the relationship between art and place and how they shape each other’s meaning,” she said. Corrin added that pieces might be displayed, for example, both outside of the new library when it is built and inside that new building in one of the gathering spaces.

“The decisions as to what kind of works [we plan to acquire] will, in the future, be left up to the public art committee,” Corrin said. “That committee will make its recommendations to the museum’s acquisitions committee. The College president has final approval over all museum acquisitions.”
The first acquisition of art supported by this new fund is a sculpture by American artist George Rickey. The sculpture, called “Double L Excentric Gyratory II” was built in 1981 and is scheduled to arrive on campus by June. The piece is 30 feet tall and consists of two 18-foot steel “L”s that move in a dancer-like manner. It will stand between the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance and Greylock, facing Main Street.

“The George Rickey sculpture is a wonderful example of the artist’s work,” Corrin said. “It has a lot of surface for catching the changing light and reflecting the surrounding context. Because of the expressive, almost painterly treatment of the surface, when the sun strikes the ‘skin’ of the piece, it comes alive as though it is pulsating within.” Corrin added that one cannot predict the movement of the sculpture, which makes it interesting to view both at rest and when set in motion by the wind. “As such, it is an ideal work for standing out as a distinctive, soaring presence in relation to the nearby architecture,” she said.

Corrin said that artistic excellence is the most important selection criterion. She added, “We will also be looking for works that offer opportunities for faculty and students to connect the art experience to teaching and learning.” Corrin said she feels it is important that the artwork represent “a diversity of approaches, media and attitude … In addition, we will be thinking about the publicly sited art works as a ‘collection.’”