Campus as a Canvas

The 12 Bi-Co students in Naomi Safran-Hon’s “Sculpture: Materials and Techniques” class were asked to construct site-specific installations across campus—from the library to the Nature Trail to the KINSC Rotunda—for their final projects this fall.

For the final project in Naomi Safran-Hon’s “Sculpture: Materials and Techniques” class this fall, all of campus was a canvas. The 12 Bi-Co students—some of whom had never taken a college art course before—were asked to construct site-specific installations in a College space of their choosing to explore how unexpected objects or sculptural actions can activate space or make a viewer sensitive to the space.

“With this assignment I was hoping the students would start considering the site of their work and environment—how does the work relate to its surrounding, how does the surrounding affect the work?” said Safran-Hon, an award-winning, internationally shown artist and visiting professor of fine arts. “It is a transitional assignment that gets the students to start thinking about sculpture, not just as an object in a clear space, but [in how] it works with in the space. My hope is that it will help the students gain an understanding of how installation work and sculpture come together. It is critical to understand that the space around a piece is also part of the piece, we don’t experience things in isolation rather as relational to what we see before, after, and around them.”

Her students selected locations across campus for their work, from established exhibition spaces (the library, VCAM Create Spaces) to more unconventional ones (Founders Green, campus trees). And the community (and stewards of the different locations) welcomed the different artworks into their spaces, allowing students to—for example—dangle something in the middle of the KINSC Rotunda or take over a carrel in Magill.

“The diversity of installations reflects the diversity of the students’ interests and experiences at Haverford,” said Safran-Hon, who notes that her students spanned many class years and majors. “I was impressed by the students’ work and their initiative to find locations that were surprising, and some tricky to work with. … My teaching philosophy is always to guide my students to find what interest them in terms of the subject of the work, the diversity of installations shows that each students found a personal way to relate to the project and create a piece that found a form to their unique voice.”

Photos by Patrick Montero.