As you’re running between classes, eating a banana, texting a friend or waving to a professor, there is often not a moment to rest for many college students. However, in the few minutes between classes or walking back to your dorm, you can find public art to experience and appreciate, sometimes hidden in plain sight, sprinkled throughout Emory’s Atlanta Campus.
Many students do not know that Emory has a Public Art Committee dedicated to selecting and installing thought-provoking, original artworks throughout campus. Outside of these committee selections, there are also brilliant spaces around Emory that allow students to experience other student-created artworks, such as performances, songs, sculptures or murals. Art doesn’t always have to mean a $17 ticket to the High Museum or an expensive pass to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; it can be found on your 15-minute run to class or right across from your outdoor lunch spot.
For new students or people looking for more opportunities to appreciate public art on campus, I have compiled a list of my five favorite public art experiences Emory has to offer.
Whisper Chair, Jim Gallucci
On display in Tull Plaza, the “Whisper Chair” is often identified among students as “that weird blue bench by the anthro building.” At first glance, this public sculpture may be just that: a weird blue bench. However, upon engaging with the artwork, it turns out to be an interactive audiovisual experience.
The base of the bench chair is intertwined with spirals of hollow blue tubing. Two people can sit on either side of the bench and have an entirely private conversation by speaking and listening through the hollow pieces at the ends of the tube. Something as quiet as a whisper is picked up by the tubing and amplified out of the other end, hence the name “Whisper Chair.”
This intimate and playful sculpture is a commentary on privacy in a shared space, and the ways in which we construct these spaces separate from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Allow yourself a moment for a reflective, private conversation, even as hundreds of students rush past to get to their next class on time.
Source Route, George Trakas
This artistic installation is one of my favorites on campus, and one of the hardest to find, rivaled only by the hidden “Director’s Chair” behind the Robert W. Woodruff Library. “Source Route” is located in a ravine in Baker Woodlands behind the Michael C. Carlos Museum.
George Trakas, the genius artist behind this artwork, is known for his environmental and site-specific installations, and his piece at Emory is no exception. “Source Route” features wooden planks and metal steps, leading down to the creek and then back up to the other side of the bridge. This environmental sculpture works to engage the participant’s body and mind, allowing the viewer to become an actor, tracing the natural contours of the land below the human-imposed architecture of the heavy stone bridge above the creek. The Foundation of Contemporary Arts describes Trakas as exploring “relationships between nature, the built environment, and human presence” in his work, a sentiment evident in this piece.
John and Linda Cooke Noontime Concerts
While Friday afternoons are usually spent studying or quickly trying to finish up assignments before the weekend, everyone needs a mental health break from time to time. What better way to do that than with free classical music performances? The Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta has an amazing free concert series, The John and Linda Cooke Noontime Series, that features unique classical performances in Ackerman Hall one Friday each month. Ackerman Hall is located in the Carlos Museum, so all you have to do is walk up the large outdoor staircase to the top floor and turn left once you are inside. You can register for free online for a beautiful concert.
This noontime concert series provides a great escape from your workload, allowing you to lose yourself in the lofty tones of string quartets and piano solos and enjoy the beautiful view of the Emory Main Quad for an hour.
Gallery at Boisfeuillet Jones Center
There are many amazing locations that display student art on campus, including the exhibit space of the Visual Arts Building and the Cox Bridge mural. But, one of the most underrated, least-known locations is the B. Jones Gallery. Located in the Boisfeuillet Jones Center, this gallery space was created through a partnership between Emory Arts and the Career Center.
The featured student work is updated every semester, so there is always something new to see. For students interested in artistic careers, this gallery presents an amazing opportunity to display their art. Next time you are walking back from grabbing a latte at Starbucks or picking up textbooks at Barnes & Noble, stop by the B. Jones Gallery to appreciate the endless creativity and talent of fellow Emory students.
Tower One, Sol LeWitt
Sol LeWitt, considered the father of Conceptual art, famously said, “The idea becomes the machine that makes the art,” and “Tower One” perfectly exemplifies this artistic mindset.
The logic of this structure is what gives rise to its final form; the tower is made of block levels that, starting with a 5-by-1 block platform, increase by one block in height and decrease by one block in width as they ascend. This logic emphasizes a push upward, as the smooth concrete blocks seem to point to the sky. The structure’s surface also mirrors the environment around it, getting whiter in the sunlight while highlighting the shadows cast by the surrounding trees.
Katherine Mitchell, a past senior art lecturer in the visual arts program, knew LeWitt personally and believes that “Tower One” “can be a vehicle for expanding our definition of art and our view of what can be seen as beautiful.” As you leave your classes in White Hall, I suggest you take a moment to contemplate the beauty of such minimalist artwork, and the lessons it can teach you about how we see the world and what we value.
Next time you are walking around Emory’s campus, keep your eyes and ears open for the tunes of a free concert or the colors of an impressive public sculpture. Tucked in corners or situated along some of the most traveled paths, there is always art to be found.
Zimra Chickering (24C) is a born and raised Chicagoan who studies art history and nutrition science. She is also a Woodruff JEDI Fellow, educational committee chair for Slow Food Emory, organizer of Art Circles at Emory, and a tour guide for the Michael C. Carlos Museum. Zimra loves cooking, hiking, visiting art museums, photography, drinking tea, reading, and grocery shopping. She uses writing as an outlet to reflect upon issues and oppurtunities within artistic institutions, and the unique ways in which food and art can act as communicators of culture.