Planned public art to illuminate stories from region’s historically marginalized communities
April 2, 2021
Explore proposed future sculptural installations on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus in a virtual discussion with their creators and Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke from noon to 1 p.m on April 19.
Hosted by the Council on Virginia Tech History and the Moss Arts Center, “Virginia Tech’s Layered Histories: Inspiring Dialogue Through Public Art” invites the audience to deepen their understanding of the relationship between public art, history, and representation.
The four public art proposals to be featured in “Virginia Tech’s Layered Histories” were identified as winners of “Understanding Our Complicated Past and Reconnecting with Our Layered Histories: An International Ideas Competition.” They achieved high marks by the selection committee for their creative demonstration of the ways historically marginalized communities have shaped, and will continue to shape Virginia Tech.
The finalists of the competition included three individual artists and an architectural duo: Carrie Gault, Charlie Brouwer, Elena Manferdini, and Sean Kizy & Amrita Raja.
“Thresholds” - Carrie Gault
Carrie Gault’s proposal creates a series of simple thresholds; a silhouette she hopes will evoke “feelings of domesticity and ask the viewer to think about what ‘home’ means in the different contexts of the site and its evolution from forest to plantation to university.”
The three pairs of thresholds explore both past and present, featuring images and stories of people and their experiences across more than 250 years. The imagery is intended to demonstrate the interconnectedness of the human condition through time, position, and experience.
Gault’s artwork is regionally and nationally recognized for its sensitivity to site and environment. A registered architect and public artist, her studio focuses on large-scale public work as well as smaller and more intimate two and three-dimensional pieces. Gault’s primary mediums are mosaic and handmade tile.
“Think on These Things” - Charlie Brouwer
Floyd County, Virginia’s Charlie Brouwer offers a sculptural installation titled “Think on These Things.” His proposal consists of seven benches in a 25-foot diameter circle with a young oak tree planted in the center.
Four life-sized human figure sculptures sit in contemplative and meditative poses on the benches, which could seat at least 10 visitors. Empty spaces on the benches invite visitors to sit and join the figures in contemplating words carved into the benches such as “Indigenous, slavery, diversity, equality, education, history, knowledge.” Additional words, “kindness, compassion, honesty, dignity, bravery, clarity, empathy” carved into stones set in the ground inside the circle suggest ways of thinking about these things.
Brouwer taught art and was a practicing artist for 33 years; in 2008, he became a full-time artist. Brouwer’s work is displayed in galleries, museums, and public art exhibitions. He describes himself as “an artist in search of beauty, truth, and goodness.”
“Twoness” - Elena Manferdini
Elena Manferdini, principal of Atelier Manferdini, explores the relationship of the history of Solitude and the Fraction Family House and their place in present society in her proposal, “Twoness.”
“This proposal encourages further reflection in this space so as to better understand how past injustices continue to persist and inform who we are today,” said Manferdini. To illustrate this, she offers use of portraits of present and historic Indigenous and Black individuals woven together with mirrored tiles reflecting the audience.
Manferdini has 20 years of professional experience in architecture, public art, design, and education. Manferdini teaches at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and serves as chair of its graduate program.
“Say Their Names” - Sean Kizy and Amrita Raja
“Say Their Names,” offered by Sean Billy Kizy and Amrita Raja amplifies the many voices of Virginia Tech by creating a space to gather, reflect, and speak up.
The monument’s design is informed by several projects — the feminist narrative of Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party,” the patchwork quilting of artists from Black communities, patterns in Native American textiles, and the pink triangle of the queer rights movement. The form, materials, and collaborative visual content of the proposal prompt the Hokie community to come together and explore racial and social justice movements over time.
Kizy is a queer Middle Eastern American artist, architect, and large-scale art fabrication specialist whose business, Neon Fabrications, supports other emerging and established artists.
Raja is an Indian-born British-American architect, educator, and writer whose work redresses structural inequalities in the built environment.