Where stick huts once stood in front of the Baum Gallery there is now a dark dirt patch as four years of Arkansas winds tore away “The Big Naturals” art installation, bit by bit. With a blank patch and a now bare view, a question arises: What should be done about this empty patch?
“The Big Naturals” were made to be temporary and intended to last three years, but managed to survive four. Even so, it became a hallmark of UCA for the 2014 incoming students and those who followed after. Although it could remain a blank patch, providing a better view of the nearby buildings for students walking the path, students want a new installation to replace it.
The original installation was made of natural materials, fitting the campus’s environment nicely. Any new installment should retain this aesthetic to preserve the natural feel of UCA. Additionally, by creating an installment with natural materials, when or if it breaks down, those materials will automatically recycle with the environment.
If a new art piece is placed in front of Baum, there are two options. The piece could be made of sturdier materials, which means it would stay up longer, weathering Arkansas’ wind and rains, but would require consistent upkeep like the sculptures in the Irby Brickyard.
The other option is that the new installation could come about like the previous one: The artist could install the piece, create it with natural materials and wait for it to break down enough to uninstall. This would require new pieces to constantly be reinstalled so the art remains for future generations of students.
Either of these options will cost money, though the amount depends greatly on the artist producing the piece and how often a new piece is installed or the cost of potential upkeep.
This brings us to a final question of who the artist for the sculpture should be. “The Big Naturals” were created by Patrick Dougherty, an artist in residence who visited UCA in 2014. Dougherty, though a great artist, is not a UCA alumnus.
The replaced piece should be created by either a current UCA student or a UCA alumnus. This would have reciprocal benefits for both the university and the artist.
The artist would benefit by having a prominent art installation on his resume, aiding the student in his graduate endeavors. An alumnus would gain similar benefits by having a commissioned piece as an example of his work to provide future employers with.
The benefits to UCA include a point of interest on tours. While potential students tour campus, tour leaders can point out the installation and say that it was made by a UCA student or alumnus.
Either way, this would provide an example of student art, piquing potential students’ interests. The artist would most likely be affiliated with the art department, ultimately showing off UCA’s art program.
And if a new installation could be produced every three or four years, this could provide a consistent opportunity for current and future students to show off their artistic abilities and contribute to the appearance of UCA.
The blank dirt patch represents a blank canvas. It’s an opportunity for UCA to brag about its students and for its students to contribute to UCA’s beautiful campus.