BLOOMING WHILE THEY’RE PLANTED

The art museum exhibits outdoor sculpture, and a fixture leaves his post

By JILL INGRAM MA ’08

Outdoor art is accessible art: Children play on Brian Glaze’s
“Midden Artifacts” in the Fine and Performing Arts Center courtyard.

The newest additions to WCU’s landscape can withstand high winds, heavy rain, snow, ice and subzero temperatures, but won’t survive through the year. Installed in September, these works of metals, concrete and wood are pieces in a temporary outdoor sculpture exhibit.

The sculptures are in the courtyard of the Fine and Performing Arts Center, with each piece specifically chosen for its site, said Denise Drury, interim museum director. For instance, “Nucleus of a Raindrop” by Hanna Jubran, of Grimesland by way of Israel, “is highly detailed, so we decided to place it near the entrance to the FAPAC box office so that visitors might have a more intimate experience with it,” Drury said. “Midden Artifacts,” five concrete mounds by Brian Glaze of Hendersonville, were placed in the lawn’s center as if rising from the earth like uncovered relics.

Also part of the exhibit are “Ferrous Oak,” by J. Andrew Davis of Brevard, a vertical shaft of steel and cast iron; “Union,” by Deborah LaGrasse of Crawfordville, Fla., two identical joined aluminum forms; and “Over & Up,” by Robert Winkler of Asheville, a spiral of cedar and steel that employs straight lines only.

While the outdoor exhibit is scheduled to end in October, it comes as part of a master plan to increase public access to art on campus through exhibits of temporary, permanent, neighborhood and themed art.  An outdoor environment requires art “that stands out against its surroundings,” Jubran said. Outdoor art is more accessible to the public and typically gets more exposure than a piece housed indoors. When it’s been part of the landscape long enough, “once you remove it, people will miss it,” he said.

Martin DeWitt

Martin DeWitt, founding director and curator of the Fine Art Museum, has been a part of the WCU landscape since before the museum even opened, and, like public sculpture, now that he is gone, the WCU and surrounding communities surely miss him. “I think the timing is right for changes,” said DeWitt, who ended his run in December. Though his career spans more than 30 years in museum administration, he is a painter and sculptor who exhibits his own work and looks forward to more time in his studio.

DeWitt joined the university in 2003, with the museum opening in 2005 as part of WCU’s Fine and Performing Arts Center. He was involved in the museum’s construction, curated its permanent collection (which grew to more than 1,200 objects) and drafted the blueprint for the facility’s operation. “Martin has been an outstanding founding director of the Fine Art Museum,” said Robert Kehrberg, dean of WCU’s College of Fine and Performing Arts, who praised DeWitt for defining a vision for the museum and cultivating it as a cultural destination.

Regional artists have been a museum focus, among them Harvey K. Littleton, a pioneer of the studio glass movement; Lewis Buck, who creates paintings and assemblage pieces; glass artist Richard Ritter; and Mike Smith, who photographs contemporary Appalachia. DeWitt also showcased a number of American Indian artists, including Shan Goshorn, Luzene Hill and Natalie Smith.