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Advanced Sculpture Students Install New Public Art at Princeton


Steve Runk     
Director of Communications
Lewis Center for the Arts

A new public sculpture was recently installed on the Princeton campus, conceived and executed by eight students in the Lewis Center’s course in Advanced Sculpture taught by artist Martha Friedman in the Program in Visual Arts. Constructed of concrete and rubber and located behind the Friend Center off Olden Street, the piece will be on view through October.

Creating and installing a collaborative outdoor public sculpture on campus was a stated goal in the course description and syllabus, along with creation of individual, thematically-linked sculptures or installations by each student.  

“Not only did all eight students in the course have prior experience with creating sculpture,” notes Friedman, “but most had either worked with me or one another, so a collaborative work came together very organically.”

The students began the process by researching a wide range of outdoor sculpture projects including work in the university’s extensive collection. They also researched how artists interact with the industrial fabricators that translate the artist’s often large-scale vision into an actual object, visiting a number of fabricators including the contractor that does much of the concrete work for the university.

Installation processThe class met with staff in the university’s Office of the Vice President for Facilities to consider specific campus locations where the sculpture could be sited. “Critical to the creative process for the students, as for any artist conceiving a piece of outdoor public art, is to understand the context, the environment, the experience of the people who pass through the area, and the limitations posed by the site and materials, as well as practical and regulatory issues,” explains Friedman.

Upon selection of the lawn between the Friend Center and Mudd Library as the site, the students developed concepts, sketches and models of potential designs both in-class and via email, according to Friedman. The students became interested in cast concrete pilings used as foundations and extending these foundational supports out of the ground.  “The idea emerged of several columns that would communicate a ‘group’ and which were collectively activated by doing something,” recounts Friedman. They also wanted to design a place for people to sit and view the piece and to enable viewers to become part of the sculpture. 

The final design was for two erect seven-foot columns leaning in to grasp a blue rubber form between them with a third column lying prone nearby with another blue rubber form perched on it, becoming the seating envisioned in the design. Reaching consensus on a title for the piece proved more challenging that the collective design, and so a very long combined title was chosen: “Untitled; Untitled III; Chopsticks; Awesome; Compression; Blue Balls; Two Standing; One Sitting; Please Sit; Take a Load Off; Compress Me; Finals//Exhaustion; Drill Baby Drill; #Public; Touch Me; 4 Degrees; (Glass) Shards; Three Students; Let's Vote; #DenzerNation; Princess Di; Giant Poet; Anne-Elise; Freed Me; Antonia (much thanks to Antonio); Ji-Hold Me Tight; Ryan-bot; Three Little Pigs; Three Blind Mice; The Holy Trinity; Three Finger; Three's A Crowd; Gangsta Lean; Don't Pee On This Sculpture; Free Advice; Three Advice; Lean On Me; Outdoor Furniture; Outdoor Future; P=NP?; #Reunions13; Emergence.”

Completed sculptureTo execute the sculpture, the students welded the rebar armature for the columns in the Lewis Center’s sculpture studio and witnessed the pouring of the concrete columns at the manufacturer’s plant. They also cast the blue rubber forms in class. The students were on hand to oversee the piece’s installation at the site.

The students involved in the creation of the new work include undergraduates Ben Denzer ’15, Jiho Lee ’13, Diana Li 13, Elise Rise ’15, and Nicolas Schmidt ’15, along with graduate students in the School of Architecture, Michal Koszycki, Ryan Johns, and Antonia Weiss. 

The Program in Visual Arts’ technical director, Marjorie Carhart, coordinated the complex project. Members of the university’s facilities staff who assisted are Sean Gallagher, Manager of Civil Engineering and Construction, and Charles Krank, Assistant Director of Administrative Services for Grounds and Building Maintenance, with the approval of Paul LaMarche, Vice Provost for Space Programming and Planning.

Friedman has been on the Lewis Center faculty for four years. Her work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Massachusetts, and Wallspace in New York City, and in group exhibitions at The Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow and the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati. She will be acting director of the Program in Visual Arts in the spring semester of 2014.

To learn more about this project, the Program in Visual Arts, and the more than 100 other events presented each year by the Lewis Center visit 

The Lewis Center for the Arts encompasses Princeton University’s academic programs in creative writing, dance, theater, and visual arts, as well as the interdisciplinary Princeton Atelier.   The Center represents a major initiative of President Shirley M. Tilghman to fully embrace the arts as an essential part of the educational experience for all who study and teach at Princeton.  Over 100 diverse public performances, exhibitions, readings, and lectures are offered each year, most of them free or at a nominal admission fee.  For more information about the Lewis Center for the Arts visit

Photo link:
Photo caption 1-3:  Sculpture students, faculty member Martha Friedman, and members of university facilities staff at the installation of the new public artwork created by students in an Advanced Sculpture course at the Lewis Center for the Arts.
Photo credit 1:  Photos by students in the course
Photo caption 2:  The new public sculpture created by students in a spring Lewis Center for the Arts’ course in Advanced Sculpture led by artist Martha Friedman, on view through October 2013.
Photo credit 2:  Photo by Jaclyn Sweet

The Lewis Center for the Arts is part of a major initiative announced by President Shirley M. Tilghman in 2006 to fully embrace the arts as an essential part of the educational experience for all who study and teach at Princeton University. The Lewis Center for the Arts will have a significant impact on the University and the larger community it serves. The public is welcomed to a full range of lectures, exhibitions, concerts and performances at the Center. Many of the Center’s events are free or charge a nominal admission fee.

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