Campus courtyard becomes a work of art

Peters Hall courtyard

Peters Hall courtyard

One of Radford University's public spaces is now filled with the brilliant light of blown glass sculptures, thanks to a collaboration between the Department of Art and the School of Teacher Education and Leadership.

Under the direction of Parker Stafford, an RU adjunct faculty member and glass artisan, art students helped create glass fixtures that are brightening the Peters Hall courtyard.

"These students were taken from no experience in glassmaking to being able to assist directly in the making of blown glass forms that include flower-like forms, tendrils, colored spheres and staves that rise up out of the natural greenery and will continue to change as the plantings in the courtyard grow and develop," Stafford said.

In fact, that was a goal of the project: to create a display that would work with the natural environment. In addition to learning how to make the glass, the students were charged with considering the civic impact of public artworks and the careful selection of an exhibition space.

"The problem with installing glass pieces in a public space has been finding a suitable venue that would provide the outdoor environment with natural lighting as well as good security," Stafford said. "The Peters Hall courtyard was a perfect fit."

Stafford's key ally was Ann Roberts, an associate professor in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership. Roberts' office looks out on the courtyard and she had long had an interest in improving the space. After working with Neal Thompson of RU Landscape Services, she secured permission for faculty stewardship of the space.

"Other members of the faculty and I have worked together," she said, explaining that the courtyard is not only viewed from offices but also widely used by a meditation group, faculty and students on breaks, and the occasional class. Introducing the right artistic installation was a chance to cultivate and improve the peaceful, beloved environment, she said.

"The whole cooperative venture makes total sense," Roberts said. "There's a whole different dimension this explores, which is the creative process. That process is as important to students and faculty as only the mastering of content."

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May 8, 2013
Dan Waidelich
(540) 831-7749