Text by Michele Corriel, edited by Vaughan Judge
The School of Art is at the heart of Montana’s most influential and inventive artistic community, providing an energetic environment in which students can flourish. The School of Art is a creative hothouse where new ideas are always encouraged and developed through learning, teaching and research: which is studio based, professionally orientated and socially engaged; as the Lift Tower Public Art Project by Rob Rodgers illustrates.
Steel branches standing as tall as a fruit tree, painted Bridger Bowl green support two apple-red chairs. Whether muffled in snow, dripping with rain, or drenched in sun the Lift Tower is a compelling addition to Montana State University’s campus.
The seed of the student sculpture competition from which Lift Tower grew began with the collaboration of The School of Art, Bridger Bowl Ski Resort, Chamberlin Productions and the Bozeman Downtown Partnership.
“My interest is in public art,” School of Art Director Vaughn Judge says. “So I was looking for a collaborative project that would bring together the community, student and the campus.”
The result was a student competition that asked the question: What would you do with a ski lift tower that had to function as seating, offer an aesthetic and be related in some way to the Bridger Bowl Ski Area and its commitment to the environment.
“It was a great way to get the students thinking about function and art,” Professor Judge says.
Rob Rodgers, who has since graduated, came up with the idea of a tree embracing environmental awareness. “The branches are made of the lift tower’s steel tubing and the curves of the tubing are bent upwards to collect the snow and rain. In the winter it will look like a living tree with snow on it. I hope the holes will form icicles and mineral deposits. The more it sits outside, the more it will take on the environment where it lives,” Rogers states.
Professor Bryan Petersen, who has seen the project from its inception as a drawing on paper through to the standing sculpture installed in front of the art building, feels proud of the work, and proud of all the people who stepped up to make it happen.
“Lift Tower is a modern structure,” he says. “There’s a graphic quality to the sculpture as well that creates a visual rhythm within the piece.”
“I’m honored,” Rodgers says. “I love the school. It’s a great campus to walk through and it feels good to be able to leave my mark on something like that.” The School of Art, fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.
Professor Judge states, “Our vision is to provide world-class creative education and research in design, studio art, art history and art education which makes a significant cultural, social and economic contribution to Montana and beyond” The School offers five undergraduate degrees and two graduate degrees. Details can be found at http://art.montana.edu