Mountains & Minds Magazine:

Sculpture on campus

May 06, 2010 -- by Marjorie Smith

Sculpture, the art of three dimensions, provides some of the most dramatic examples of public art on the MSU campus. Some pieces of MSU sculpture have become campus landmarks, yet other pieces are appreciated more subliminally. Yet, all visually enrich the campus and the educational experience for MSU students, faculty and staff.


Three Sculptures by George Conkey
This work by George King Conkey (1921-1965), a professor of art at MSU (then MSC) from 1955 to 1965, was site-specific--meant to soar within the confines of the four-story atrium at the center of the library (not yet named for Roland Renne) when it was renovated and greatly expanded beginning in 1960. The library was finished floor by floor as funds became available, but Conkey's sculpture and its surrounding garden were there from the beginning. When it was determined that the library's usable floor space could be expanded most economically by filling in the third and fourth floors of the atrium, the sculpture was moved to its current site, reinforced and a special seal coating applied to protect it from the elements.
Now located in a protected corner of the Quads.




Kosmos by Rudy Autio
Autio (1926-2007) was one of the most prominent artists to graduate from Montana State. With his friend and classmate, Peter Voulkos, he was a founding resident artist of the Archie Bray Foundation in 1952. He started the ceramics department at the University of Montana. Autio's painted ceramic vessels are found in the permanent collections of museums around the world and sell for tens of thousands of dollars. This work was purchased with the insurance money after an earlier outdoor work by Autio was inadvertently destroyed during a construction project.
First floor, central seating area, Renne Library.




Suspended Continuum by Richard Swanson
A 1974 resident at the Archie Bray Foundation, Swanson lives in Helena and earned an MFA at the University of Montana in 1994 where he concentrated on a collaboration between sculpture and dance. His work was part of the same "Percent for Art" appropriation that funded "Wind Arc."
Suspended over the lobby in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Building.



Screens for Lydia's by George Conkey
"Screens for Lydia's" is another example of a work George Conkey created that was moved to a new setting. The screens were commissioned by Lydia's Restaurant in Butte where they were enjoyed for many years. The plaque accompanying the screens says that Conkey was "a dedicated teacher, committed artist, devoted in his beliefs and always maintained a wonderful sense of humor." (It also misspells his name, in bronze.) The screens were donated to the MSU School of Art by Bobby Jackson, Class of 1965.
Installation on the second floor of Cheever Hall.




M V Iby Duryea Voulkos
Bozeman native Duryea Voulkos won the campus-wide outdoor sculpture competition in 1979 with this work, which he calls "M V I" although it is also known as "The Christmas Tree" and "The Voulkos Oriental Sculpture." A Vietnam veteran, Voulkos attended MSU on the G.I. Bill, just like his uncle, the famed ceramic sculptor Peter Voulkos, who enrolled at MSU after returning from World War II. Duryea designed his sheet metal work to rust and blend in with the brick buildings on campus. Originally sited at the base of Garfield Street, across from the creative arts complex, the work was moved during construction of the Centennial Mall. Although an art major, Voulkos has earned his living in electrical mechanical design.
Between Reid and Traphagen Hall.



untitled by Rudy Autio
Rudy Autio created these ceramic panels for this building when it was enlarged in 1960. His widow, Leila Autio, remembers that they were one of the first things he made after they moved to Missoula. They have no title but are simply abstract art and perhaps symbolize the richness and variety that lie behind the staid brick walls of the building's fašade.
Installed on the front of Renne Library.



untitled by Gary Bates
The painted metal "Yellow Four" was the first commissioned work of sculptor Gary Bates, installed in 1970 when he was a sophomore at Montana State College. Bates won a campus-wide competition to design a new public sculpture. Warned by an architecture professor that his design (entered in the competition as a one-twelfth size redwood model) would not withstand the rigors of fraternity pranks, Bates consulted with structural engineers in Billings who helped engineer a sculpture that has endured for 40 years. Followers of Bates' work see a connection between this piece and his current work, not only in its minimalist esthetic but in his concern for public safety and his tendency to put more of his own money and time into a work than the commission fee would justify.
Between Romney Gym and Strand Union.



Snow Plow by Jeff Boshart
Like many other works installed on campus, the name bestowed upon this work by its creator, Jeff Boshart, may have been lost to its popular designation, "Snow Plow." A native of Iowa, Boshart was a senior honors student at MSU in 1978 when his painted metal design was selected for inclusion in the permanent campus collection. After obtaining his BA at MSU, Boshart earned an MFA at the University of Massachusetts. He is now professor of sculpture at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill. and has a long list of site-specific works installed around the Midwest.
In front of Haynes Hall.



Wind Arc by Gary Bates
At 44 feet high, Gary Bates' "Wind Arc" (popularly known as "The Noodle") is by far the largest work of art on campus. Three decades after winning a contest to build "Yellow Four," Bates won a nationwide competition in the "Percent for Art" program when the new Engineering and Physical Sciences Building was constructed. Installed on April 13, 2002, Bates' sculpture reacts to the slightest changes in wind conditions. As with many of his wind-activated works, Bates could not know for sure that his creation would turn in the wind until the crane lowered the arc onto the polished steel pole and the artist, perched precariously atop his creation, secured it in place. On the ground below, a small audience applauded as the huge curved tube caught the breeze and began to move, two tons of steel dancing on the breeze.
In front of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Building.



untitled by Mark Stasz
This fountain was commissioned from Mark Stasz, a popular sculptor based in Bellevue, Idaho, who has fountains and other work throughout the country. It was installed in August, 2002 when the library was renovated and the third floor was extended to fill in the former four-story atrium. Although it leaked water to first floor when first turned on it provides a nice background sound for strenuous mental work in the quiet area.
Third floor, Renne Library. Added when the library was renovated and the third floor extended to fill in the former four-story atrium.




untitled by Bill Massey
Not really meant as a sculpture, according to now retired Art Department Chair Richard Helzer, this concrete creation was built during the 1999-2000 school year by former professor of architecture Bill Massey as a demonstration to students of the possibilities of concrete as an expressive medium. Massey now heads the architecture department at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Cheever Hall courtyard.




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