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Sculpture garden under construction

Christopher Barnes | Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Most works in Snite Museum of Art exhibits are part of indoor exhibits, but a new sculpture garden on the west side of campus will bring an outdoor art display to campus.

Charles Loving, director and curator of the George Rickey Sculpture Archive, said an appreciation for the arts prompted the University to begin construction on the new garden this fall.

“Through the sculpture garden, we hope to create an important artistic program for both campus and community audiences,” Loving said. “This beautiful site at Notre Dame’s community entrance could serve as a future campus fine arts district.”

The presence of the sculpture garden on campus could catalyze the construction of facilities on campus devoted to the appreciation of fine arts, Loving said.

“Some folks on campus would one day like to add a new art museum building, new art, art history and design building and a new music building to that region of campus that already features the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center,” Loving said.  “This project should regain momentum for the Snite Museum staff to develop funds for a new art museum building to be constructed at this location.”

University architect Doug Marsh said the garden’s beauty and location would allow visitors the opportunity for reflection.

“The sculpture garden will provide a place for walking and contemplation amid a naturally distinctive outdoor space,” Marsh said.  “Its location between the Irish Green and the Compton Family Ice Arena is a unique outdoor space given its change in topography and grassland context.  A storm water retention basin that serves as a water feature further adds to the location’s artistry.”

The way plants within the garden will filter the sun’s rays also made the site a perfect candidate for the garden, Loving said.

“The perfect quantity of light allowed through the canopy of trees will be retained with the construction of the sculpture garden,” Loving said.  “This effect will celebrate the cyclical wonder of nature by symbolizing Notre Dame’s four seasons.”

Loving said the art within the garden would shift on a rotational basis. The first installment, which highlights the natural attraction of the landscape, will be an exhibit called “Reclamation of our Nature.”

“Landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh has specified the planting of indigenous trees and shrubs, as well as prairie grass, to return the site to what it might have appeared at the founding of Notre Dame,” Loving said.  “The sculptures selected for the first exhibit should speak to the beauty and power of nature, as well as to humankind’s universal quest for spiritual transcendence.”

The architecture present within the park will span a wide spectrum of images, both real and imaginary, Loving said.

“The sculptures are both representational and abstract,” Loving said.  “They are essentially of the human-scale, and they are all by modern or contemporary artists.”

Marsh said that the University has invested much effort in designing the sculpture garden’s plans and that financial support for its construction has been widespread.

“This project has been in the active planning and design process for approximately the last year,” Marsh said.  “Its funding has been drawn from a series of gifts from individuals.”

The building contractor responsible for planning the garden was selected on the basis of financial practicality, Marsh said.

Marsh said the University awarded the construction contact to local firm Gibson-Lewis, LLC.

Although the building aspects of the sculpture garden will be completed in a few months’ time, Loving said the area’s natural features would not come to fruition for an extended period.

“Construction of the park has just begun and is scheduled to be completed in November 2012,” Loving said.  “Of course, it will take years for the trees and plants to fully mature.”