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Springfield experiences a "Day Without Art." KSMU's Randy Stewart reports.
(John Lennon's "Imagine" plays)
RANDY: Imagine a world without art...
(John Lennon: "It's easy if you try....")
RANDY: Or is it? That was the question posed by the Public Art Committee here at Missouri State University today, during "A Day Without Art." Missouri State University Art and Design Professor Dwayne Crigger describes the concept.
CRIGGER: Nationally it actually had to do with an AIDS awareness issue, that dealt with wrapping, or removing, a piece of artwork that might not be there as a result of the loss of this artist. And so we're kind of taking a little different slant on this. But "A Day Without Art" in our particular situation came about as a result of a student member of the Public Art Committee, Joe Esser, saying that awareness of public art might be generated by having a day WITHOUT art, making people more aware of art that exists in their everyday lives.
RANDY: And you're doing that by what means?
CRIGGER: We're doing that by having a number of public art pieces across the city of Springfield covered for a day. And so, people who might be going down National Avenue may notice "Sun Target" at Springfield Art Museum will be covered in black plastic, and "Echosphere" here on campus will be covered. And I kind of compare this a little bit to our recent ice storm when we lost so many trees. And many times while you're walking along, you say, "Well, I KNOW that there was something there...!"
RANDY: You don't really notice until they're not there.
CRIGGER: You don't. And I think that's exactly true with the artwork as well. It's kind of the presence of an absence. There have been so many songs that have been written about missing something after it's gone--"You take Paradise and put up a parking lot." You don't miss it 'til it's gone. And I think that's an exact metaphor for what's actually taking place here. Hopefully, when people take the time to realize that, "Wait a minute--I've become accustomed to this to the point where I don't even notice it any more," it'll be a benefit, and the whole success of "A Day Without Art" will become evident.
RANDY: Well, that's the idea anyway. So how has it worked in actual practice? Dr. Adele Newson-Horst, outgoing Dean of the Missouri State University College of Arts and Letters, said there were reactions from the very beginning, whena crew started putting the black plastic covering over the "Echosphere"--that stainless steel satellite dish-like sculpture facing National near Craig and Ellis Halls--yesterday afternoon.
NEWSON-HORST: We started asking them what the reaction has been, and they said--one guy said, in his nine years of employment, he hadn't seen anything like this... that students walked up to him, faculty walked up to him, and said, "What's going on?" And they talked about it being a conversation piece.
RANDY: An informal survey of students making their way to class this morning showed a mixed reaction to the covering of the "Citizen Scholar" statue outside Strong Hall.
STUDENT No.1: Yeah, I noticed that--I don't know what they're doing.
STUDENT No.2: I think it's a prank!
STUDENT No.3: No...
RANDY: You hadn't noticed at all?
STUDENT No.3: (chuckling) Yes.
STUDENT No.4: Yeah, I had called about that, and I didn't get ahold of anyone in Maintenance, so who knows?
RANDY: So you were concerned about it.
STUDENT No.4: Oh, yeah--I thought somebody had tried to deface it or damage it! But I guess I see the point, though.
STUDENT No.5: I wouldn't even notice, honestly. I didn't notice it was there to begin with.
STUDENT No.6: I'd heard about the "Day Without Art," and I was like, "What does that mean? Are they taking down all the art? That's really sad!" I didn't know what kind of statement it was making.
RANDY: Yeah, not taking it down so much as just--
STUDENT No.6: Covering it up, yeah. It's a day without art.... Hmmm... that's sad. I don't like it! (laughs) I don't know--I guess art sort of affects us in ways that we don't really realize, you know? Until somebody covers it, and THEN you realize it!
RANDY: Springfield Art Museum Director Jerry Berger reported to me that at least one person found the covering-up of the well-known "Sun Target" very "dramatic," because residents take the big sculpture for granted. The reaction to "Day Without Art" was rather different at Drury University, reports Art Department Chair Tom Parker:
PARKER: We all were in sympathy with the aims of this project, but when it came right down to it, no one would do the "dirty deed" of covering up the Trova (sculpture)! So the swimming pool cover remains in my trunk. They felt--
RANDY: Now, who is "they?"
PARKER: Well, students and faculty--those that I prevailed upon. And they felt that a more potent symbolic gesture would be to NOT cover it up, because a day without art is unthinkable. But on the other hand--maybe it was facetiously brought up, but--the idea that if you give 'em one day without art, then they'll want TWO (Randy laughs), thinking it's just too slippery a slope to start down. Anyway, I respected their twist on it, and so our Trova remains triumphantly UNadorned.
RANDY: "A Day Without Art" concludes with a concert by the Missouri State University Symphony Orchestra tonight (4/12) at 7:30pm at the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts. And Dr. Adele Newson-Horst promises a public form about "A Day Without Art" tomorrow:
NEWSON-HORST: Tomorrow we will debrief and talk about what we've done... what impact it had... what we should think about for the future.