U City Sculpture Series 2014

Caitlin Penny, Recollection.

Two MFA students' proposals to be commissioned

Posted by Katherine Welsch February 3, 2014

View photos from 2014 University City Public Sculpture Series

Proposals by MFA students Michael Aaron Williams and Caitlin Penny have been chosen to be commissioned for the 2014 University City Public Sculpture Series.

Now in its 28th year, the series provides students with valuable hands-on experience in developing works of public art. Participants choose locations, estimate costs, design models, and make professional presentations before University City's Municipal Commission on Arts & Letters. Winning projects—funded by the city and the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis—are then constructed, installed, and unveiled.

This year, students interested in participating in the Sculpture Series were required to take Art Practices-Public Practice during the fall semester. Taught by senior lecturer Noah Kirby, the course created a framework for understanding historical, theoretical, and practical considerations for creating artwork in relation to the material and social conditions of public space, as well as a formal introduction to the discipline of proposal development.

At the close of the semester, the seven students—who represented both the undergraduate and graduate programs—presented their models and proposals to the University City Commission of Arts & Letters. In their proposals, students were asked to align their vision with the upcoming Sculpture City 2014 Conference theme of “Monument / Anti-Monument.”

"All of the proposals demonstrated the best qualities of our students: They showed tremendous conviction about their respective projects and worked with intent and enthusiasm," Kirby says. "The proposals expressed a diversity of interest, approach, and understanding that is a hallmark of the program.

"The two selected proposals clearly address the theme of 'Monument / Anti-Monument' from a simultaneously sophisticated and accessible perspective that is to be commended," he adds.

For his proposal, Eden, Williams is hoping to promote greater interaction between members of the public and nature. Specifically, he plans to create a series of lifelike figurative sculptures that depict people feeding birds. The sculptures will actually hold birdseed in their hands, acclimating the birds to the practice of hand feeding in the hope that members of the public will be able to feed the wild birds out of their own hands.

Penny's proposal, Recollection, calls for a site-specific sculpture that plays off of ideas related to childhood, using children's playground equipment as inspiration. Her goal is for the piece to rekindle old memories of childhood play for adults, and to foster dialogue between adults and children on what the sculpture is, ultimately becoming a catalyst for the creation of new memories.

"Throughout the course of the semester, the students were engaged, active, enthusiastic, skilled, well-prepared, and made art that is pertinent within an expansive context," Kirby says. "I couldn't be prouder of them and look forward to the work being placed in the public."

All of the students' proposals and models will be on display at Centennial Commons (7210 Olive Blvd.) during the month of March. The opening reception for the 2014 University City Public Sculpture Series will take place Saturday, April 12, at the University City Public Library.