Campus Art Walk
We explore the origin stories of a sampling of artworks across campus, from the decades-old to the works in progress.
An art project currently underway on SUNY Brockport campus is a dialogue across decades.
The fountain next to Drake Memorial Library was created in 1979 by Soviet artist Zurab Tsereteli and donated to the College. (More details below.) He intended to return to campus to add a colorful mural to the fountain’s base, but a travel ban after the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979–80 prevented it.
Nearly 40 years later, William “Bill” Andrews and Nate Hodge ’13 are making that vision a reality. Andrews, emeritus professor of political science and deputy mayor of the Village of Brockport, was inspired to honor Tsereteli’s intentions and add some color to campus in the process. He is funding the work that Hodge is bringing to fruition.
“I was interested in taking on the project because of the challenge it posed to create a design that is contemporary and at the same time complementary to the existing sculpture,” said Hodge, who earned a BFA from Brockport and an MFA from the University at Buffalo. “I’m looking at it like a collaboration across time, and my part of the collaboration is to finish integrating the fountain within its environment while respecting what Tsereteli created.”
Hodge aims to finish the mural’s base layer this month and return in the spring to expand on it.
“On our campus, art helps promote a sense of community, engagement, diversity, and connection,” said Jennifer Hecker, professor of art, specializing in sculpture. “Art enhances the quality of life and helps establish a sense of place, while fostering an environment that encourages and nurtures creative expression.”
Hecker also chairs the College’s Art Placement Committee, a group of students, faculty, staff, and community members who bring quality artwork to campus and help ensure its proper display and care.
What follows is a brief tour of some of the more prominent works on campus.
“Joy and Happiness to All the Children of the World”
The inspiration for the fountain came from the coinciding of two events in 1979: the United Nations proclaiming it the International Year of the Child and the College hosting the summer International Special Olympics Games. Tsereteli, who had recently taught a painting course on campus, constructed both the fountain and a statue of Prometheus (see below) in honor of these events and donated them to the College. This donation marked the first gift from the former USSR to the people of the United States. The five pillars of the fountain sculpture represent the five continents that participated in the International Special Olympics Games that year. Tsereteli was honored by then-Brockport President Albert W. Brown for his efforts to foster peace between the Soviet Union and the United States.
“Light and Knowledge to the World”
Also by Tsereteli and shipped overseas from his native Republic of Georgia alongside “Joy and Happiness…,” this statue depicts Prometheus, who in Greek mythology stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity to allow for the progress of civilization. The statue is located in front of the Allen Administration Building.
The Hildegarde Lasell Watson Collection of Artworks by E.E. Cummings
While E.E. Cummings is often regarded as one of the most significant American poets of the 20th century, his talents with a paintbrush are less well known. Many of the 72 Cummings paintings owned by the College are on display in the Liberal Arts Building (LAB). They were donated to Brockport in the 1970s by James Sibley Watson Jr., a Harvard classmate of Cummings’s and a publisher of his early poetry. The paintings had been stored in a closet and were rediscovered three decades later, many in need of restoration. The noteworthy collection and restoration project caught the attention of The Poetry Foundation, NPR, and The Wall Street Journal, among others. The collection is named in honor of Watson’s late wife.
Created in 1984 by renowned modernist metal sculptor Albert Paley, this sculpture was previously on display outside of Rochester’s Harro East Theater and Ballroom. Its restoration and relocation on campus, between the Albert W. Brown Building and the Hazen Center for Integrated Care, was made possible by another philanthropic gift from Andrews.
“I think it’s a very valuable addition to the appearance of the campus and to our commitment to the arts,” Andrews said at the sculpture’s installation.
Paley previously taught at Brockport and received an honorary doctorate from the College in 1996.
Wooden Benches in the LAB
When ash trees needed to be cleared from the site where the LAB was being built, the Art Placement Committee decided to preserve the materials in order to turn a potential loss into something beautiful. They put out a call for proposals for artists to create benches made from the ash wood.
Several of the benches were made by Rochester-based artists — John Archer ’04, Chara Dow, and Fabiano Sarra — an example of the committee’s aim to focus on the works of regional artists when possible. The additional bench artists were Cosmo Barbaro II of Edinboro, PA; David Bishop of West Haven, CT; John Bohnhoff of Columbia, VA; Wayne Locke of Austin, TX; and Bruce Schuettinger of New Market, MD.
“Each artist drove their bench to the LAB for installation,” said Virginia Bacheler, emerita associate professor of communication, who was chair of the Art Placement Committee at the time. “So we got to meet the artists in person and see their reaction to their bench being placed in the building. All were delighted.”
The Art Placement Committee is discussing the prospects of a similar project using the trees recently cut down next to the Alumni House.
Daniel Hopkins ’85, better known in the art world as Pose 2 or Mr. Maxx Moses, returned to his alma mater in fall 2014 to leave a mark in the way he knows best: graffiti. The internationally renowned artist had tagged campus walls in secret as a student. When he came to an Organization for Students of African Descent reunion in 2012, he connected with Phyllis Kloda, who was then chair of the Department of Art. They spent the next two years brainstorming how to execute a tagging project of a much larger scale — covering the underpass by Cooper Hall and areas of Hartwell Hall and the Tuttle Athletic Complex.
During his residency here, a select handful of Brockport students got to work alongside Hopkins — including Hodge, who said, “Some artists I have met have large egos and are a little challenging or intimidating; with Pose, it was like working alongside a friend.”
Prior to the project’s inception, Hopkins was featured in Brockport’s alumni magazine, Kaleidoscope, about the transformational journey his Brockport education afforded him. He reflected on his return to campus on his blog.
Stained Glass Windows in the Library
When the former Normal School building was torn down in the late 1930s to make way for what is now Hartwell Hall, 16 stained glass windows that had lined its main corridor were crated and stored in Hartwell’s basement — where they were discovered in 1970 by graduate student Tom Martin. The eight windows still in good condition were then installed in Drake Memorial Library, between what is now the Kiefer Room and a library staff meeting room. The pieces were restored in 2015.
- “Art”: a gift from the Agonian Sorority in 1929
- “Classics”: a gift from the Class of 1916, in memory of C. D. Seely, professor of classics
- “History”: a gift from the Phi Alpha Zeta Fraternity in 1932
- “Labor”: a gift from the Arethusa Sorority in 1928
- “Literature”: a gift from the Alpha Delta Sorority in 1928
- “Music”: a gift from the Class of 1928
- “Science”: a gift from the Class of 1912, in memory of long time science professor William Lennon, namesake of Lennon Hall
- “Wisdom”: a gift from Gamma Sigma Fraternity
“Games Children Play”
These bas relief sculptures outside of Cooper Hall were created by sculptor Dorothy Riester in 1966. The eight 6’x9’ panels of sand caste concrete depict silhouettes of children playing. The Art Placement Committee is in early talks of restoring the garden area where they reside.
In addition to her widely acclaimed work, Riester is known for founding Stone Quarry Hill Art Park on the 100-acre plot where she and her husband lived in Cazenovia, NY.
The torch that is ceremoniously lit at Academic Convocation each year was created by Hecker in 2010, in honor of the College’s 175th year. Inspired by the Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble’s annual participation in the ceremony, Hecker based the design of the cast-bronze piece on an African drum, then pierced it so light could come through. She also created a bronze key to turn on the torch, which was inspired by the torch and shield from the College’s logo.
“It seemed appropriate that education be the ‘key’ because how a torch gets lit — what ignites the flame, inspires the minds, sparks the imagination, etc. — is so important,” Hecker wrote on her website.
Professor Emeritus Thomas Markusen, who received an honorary doctorate from Brockport in 2014, donated this piece in honor of President John Halstead’s retirement in 2015. It hangs in the LAB, outside of McCue Auditorium. Markusen also created the piece that hangs above the ground-floor stairwell in the Allen Administration Building.
Nursing Student Artwork in Lathrop
During the major renovation of Lathrop Hall, completed in fall 2015, several works of art were installed, several of which were made by alumni of Brockport’s nursing program, now housed in Lathrop.
“Vessel,” pictured above, was created by Registered Nurse Trisha Koomen ’05 out of glass medical vials. The piece was part of her BFA exhibition while she was a student here and was featured in the Memorial Art Gallery’s Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition in 2006, where it won the Alice E. Koret/Docent Award as well as the visitor-chosen Harris Popular Vote Award.
Lathrop also houses artwork by Molly Gaston ’15, BSN, and aforementioned bench artist Archer, who was working as a Registered Nurse while pursuing his BFA at Brockport.
You can support future art acquisitions and restorations by visiting alumni.brockport.edu/give and designating your gift for the Art Placement Committee Fund.