Brown University Public Art

Brown University Sculpture

Reclining Figure No. 2, Henry Moore, Gift, 1963, photo credit Jo-Ann Conklin

The state of Rhode Island is lucky to have two great schools in Providence, Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Of the two, RISD probably gets more credit for Providence’s reputation as the ‘Creative Capital’, but Brown is quite active in the arts and has an excellent campus public art program. 

According to the Brown website, “The “sculpture committee” of Brown University was formed in the mid-1980s by Artemis Joukowsky in close collaboration with Visual Art Professor Richard Fishman and other members of the administration and faculty…With the establishment of Brown’s percent-for-art program by President Gordon Gee in 1999, the committee was renamed the Public Art Committee and its mission was expanded.”

Brown divides its collection into 4 categories: Percent For Art commissions, gifts, commissioned memorials and loans.

Brown University Sculpture

YOU, Orly Genger, temporary loan, 2014

What Makes This Program Successful?

  • They have a good mix of temporary and permanent work. Their temporary program has sometimes served as a way to feature works by talented alumni including Arthur Carter, Orly Genger, Sarah Oppenheimer and Nina Katchadourian.
  • Works are selected by committee, but they are also tightly curated. Brown curator Jo-Ann Conklin connects artists to her community with skill and dedication.
  • The siting of works is sensitively done. Brown’s campus planning and design department has made a commitment to creating beautiful spaces. The campus architecture, a mix of old and new buildings, for the most part maintains a certain human-scaled height and as a consequence, many of the spaces are intimate. Like the Highline in New York, the scale fits the human body, creating an appealing outdoor museum.
  • They own an interesting collection of permanent works by important contemporary artists including Henry Moore, Ann Hamilton, Martin Puryear and soon, Maya Lin.
  • They have some good classic sculptures that were installed long before the Public Art Committee began its efforts, including the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius that stands at the rear of Sayles Hall and Paolo Abate’s bust of Dante, which stands in front of the John Hay Library.
Brown University Sculpture

Lines Of Sight, Diane Samuels, Percent For Art Commission, 2006

According to Vicki Veh, producer of ArtRI, “though Brown features many public artworks on campus, many people unaffiliated with their local university community believe it is necessary to have official business on a college campus in order to visit its grounds. This belief has prevented some from seeing university art collections.” Brown’s collection is free and available to all. If you travel through Rhode Island and are interested in public art, be sure to stop and see.

Check out the Brown public art map: http://www.brown.edu/about/public-art/maps

By Elizabeth Keithline

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