Student Sculptures Exhibit Talent at Mason

Posted: July 5, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Ryann Doyle

Student sculpture
Unique student sculptures dot Mason’s Fairfax Campus.

While walking through the Fairfax Campus, detailed metal statuettes, unique and colorful figures and even a trio of rustic sheep might catch your eye. Many of these sculptures dotting the campus were created by sculpture students.

Student sculptures can be placed all over campus, but they generally find a home around the Fine Arts Building. This way, they are easier to monitor and assemble, keeping the home base for sculpture students around the building.

Tom Ashcraft, director of the sculpture program for 13 years, feels that it is beneficial for the students to work outdoors.

“It is important for the students to get out of the classroom studio and get into a situation that is very real. It is a very healthy component of the dynamic which we try to teach in the sculpture studio,” says Ashcraft.

However, it is not as easy as just getting outside and building. The students who wish to have their artwork displayed around campus follow strict guidelines laid out for them in a site sculpture agreement. This contract covers all the different aspects of the sculpture process and states exactly what the student intends to do.

“The site sculpture agreement purposely places a lot of responsibility on the students so they realize that this is a contract and it is binding. That is a very important part of the real life puzzle, and these are issues that they will eventually have to deal with,” says Ashcraft.

The contract is a straightforward agreement in which students state the name of their contact professor; present a proposal of what they are going to construct in either sketch, photos or models; detail the materials that will be used in making the project; provide a map of where they want their project to be displayed; indicate how long they want to have it displayed; and list all materials, procedures and permits required to properly install their project in a safe and efficient manner.

Sheep sculptures “graze” on grass between the Center for the Arts and Mason Hall.
Photos by Ryann Doyle

Depending on the durability of the sculpture, the display time can vary from two days to a few semesters. After construction, if the project proves to be durable, the sculpture is reviewed by the Mason Facilities Management Department for approval. After approval, the student is responsible for properly installing the sculpture in the designated space.

In 2004, one of the biggest student sculpture projects was installed just off the Fairfax Campus. Nine senior sculpture students in the Department of Art and Visual Technology converted the Earl House, owned by George Mason and scheduled for demolition, into a major sculpture exhibit. Each artist claimed his or her own piece of real estate, inside and outside of the house, to make all their own. They were given free rein to transform their area into art by painting, building up or tearing down their area.

After the students worked their magic, the exhibit displayed bricks weaving in and out of windows, jackets made of stuffed animal fur hanging in the closet, carpet made of earth and grass, doors replacing windows, a basketball coffee table and wood and metal structures installed on the lawn. The exhibit stayed up for about six months.

Mason sculpture students will have an opportunity this fall to branch out even further. In September, the students will travel to James Madison University to transform a warehouse into a gallery space. Then, in November, sculpture students from Madison will travel to Mason to have a show at the Fine Arts Gallery.

“This allows students to exchange ideas and gives them a healthy dose of competition and logistics of moving work. Students don’t really get as strong of an experience if their education is limited to just working in an educational studio environment,” notes Ashcraft.

The sculpture work chosen for display on the Fairfax Campus varies from semester to semester depending on what the students produce. In August, Mason will host the Arts by George exhibit, which will showcase some of the top students’ work, so new pieces are expected to hit the grounds this September.

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