Kent campus sculpture walk adds two pieces


Simon Husted

Two new sculptures appeared on Kent State’s main campus this summer, but unlike in prior years, no price tag was attached.

In June, university officials installed an untitled piece by artist James Clover near Bowman Hall. Not long after, a second piece titled “The Legend of the Iron Hoop” by Kent State emeritus professor Brinsley Tyrrell was installed behind Henderson Hall.

The Ohio Arts Council loaned the two pieces to Kent State for free this summer and for “as long as Kent would like to keep them,” said Ken Emerick, director of individual artist grants and services at the Ohio Arts Council.

“This is the only long-term loan that we’ve made,” Emerick added.

Last year, the university spent $90,000 on each of the four pieces of art it commissioned through Ohio’s Percent for Art program. Established in 1990, the Percent for Art program mandates that one percent of funds spent on public project renovations or construction be allocated for art commissioned by the Ohio Arts Council.

It’s unclear how much money the university saved from the two loans because Kent State hasn’t sought an appraisal for either piece yet, said Beth Ruffing, assistant director of capital design and construction at the University Architect’s office.

Emerick said Clover’s piece, which is made of painted steel, is valued between $40,000 and $60,000. No estimation is available for Brinsley’s piece — made out of fiberglass and powdered iron — because it was constructed in 1980 and “his career has advanced since then,” Emerick said.

How Kent State commissions art for campus

-Kent State allocates one percent of its renovation and construction budget for art. The Ohio Arts Council and the university send out public invitations for artwork.

-A firm or artist sends a proposal to a committee made up of several officials that includes Beth Ruffing, assistant director of capital designs and construction at the University Architect’s office; Brian Pickering, project manager of landscape work at the University Architect’s office, and at least one faculty member that belongs to the building being renovated or constructed. A member from the Ohio Arts Council also serves as a non-voting member on the committee.

-“As the project changes, the committee changes,” Ruffing said.

-Once a proposal is selected, the artist or firm begins building the proposed piece of artwork.

William Busta, an art critic familiar with Tyrrell’s work and director of the William Busta Gallery in Cleveland, said the piece is “priceless” because of its historical significance, but that if it were replicated and built today the commission price would fall between $30,000 and $50,000.

For years, both pieces were on display outside the Ohio Arts Council’s headquarters in Columbus. But when the government agency relocated this past November from a Dutch colonial mansion to an downtown office building, both pieces needed to find a new home.

“We didn’t want to put them in storage,” Emerick said, adding that staff cuts had made the mansion too big to lease anymore.

The Ohio Arts Council was familiar with Kent State’s Sculpture Walk and offered them the pieces as long-term loans.

Members from Kent State’s Sculpture Walk committee made recommendations to approve the two pieces, and a third loan is under consideration to be installed on campus, Ruffing said. As part of the agreement, Kent State is responsible for maintaining the pieces.

“The committee thought they had merit,” Ruffing said.

In June, the Cleveland Arts Prize honored Tyrell with a 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award.

“The Legend of the Iron Hoop” isn’t Tyrell’s first creation displayed on Kent State’s main campus. In 1999, Tyrell built the famous pedestrian plaza behind Merrill Hall titled “Behind the Brain Plaza.”

“Brinsley is incredibly unique,” Emerick said.

Contact Summer Kent Stater reporter Simon Husted at [email protected].