Western Washington University’s nationally respected Outdoor Sculpture Collection marks its 50th anniversary this year. While you may have spent many hours on campus walking among the art, how much do you know about the collection?
WWU leads the region in public art: Before the state’s 1-percent-for-art law funded public art in state building projects, WWU had already begun a tradition of incorporating sculpture into new developments, largely through grants and private donations. Important contributors include Virginia and Bagley Wright and the National Endowment for the Arts. During WWU’s major growth periods in the ’60s and early ’70s, seven sculptures were installed, beginning in 1960 with James FitzGerald’s “Rain Forest,” a bronze fountain now located near the Wade King Student Recreation Center entrance.
Some nationally known artists are included in the collection: The collection includes works by five internationally acclaimed artists, including Mark di Suvero, who was at the controls of the crane building “For Handel” in the red paved plaza of the Performing Arts Center in 1975. “We have always chosen artists who are in the forefront of contemporary cultural trends or artists who have excelled and achieved acclaim from art authorities,” says Sarah Clark-Langager, director of the Western Gallery and curator of the Outdoor Sculpture Collection.
It’s not just the sculptures, but where they’re placed: The sculptures themselves surely add to the campus’s beauty, Clark-Langager says, but the collection’s real strength is its integration into everyday life. George Trakas’ “Bay View Station” creates a convenient pathway along the hillside below the Performing Arts Center – and a place for contemplating the connections between the university and the surrounding city.
The outdoor collection is going indoors: Scott Burton’s “Two-Part Chairs, Right Angle Version (a Pair),” sit in Haggard Hall at the foot of the formal staircase leading to the library; di Suvero’s “Mind’s Eye” sits upstairs as well. And the next addition to the collection will be a sculpture by Korean artist Do-Ho Suh, to hang in the architectural wells of the AIC building.