This past summer I had the opportunity, with three fellow sculpture students, Adam Murray, Emily Kohl-Mattingley and Carrie Ruddick, to help build an outdoor sculpture garden and to help renovate parts of the Livingston Art Building (LAB) through the funding of the Novak Project for the building’s new Frank P. and Lilly A. Novak Sculpture Garden.
As a part of the Novak Project, we built five concrete pads to allow students to display work outdoors. The concrete pads provide a platform for students to learn about public sculpture and to engage with the rest of the University. To further promote communal development at the LAB, we also built a picnic table for an outdoor classroom hoping to bring discussions outside and encourage gatherings amongst peers.
However, the most important part of our project was fabricating Visual Arts Professor Gary Kuehn’s sculpture Hsu’s Helper. The sculpture is a re-creation of Professor Kuehn’s work from 1975 in honor of his long commitment to the sculpture program at the Mason Gross School. The sculpture, made of 36 pieces of pressure-treated lumber cut to pyramids at each end and bound by steel brackets, now resides at the front of the building.
The sculpture’s presence is a profound addition to the Livingston Art Building, as well as a reminder of both the Mason Gross School’s history and the dedication of its current students. I was enthusiastic about the prospect of giving back to the building and the community that has been the core to my artistic and academic development at Rutgers.
The building, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of student activity, has a curious and almost ominous presence to the unknowing passerby. However, the Livingston Art Building contains arguably one of the most diverse and supportive communities at Rutgers. At the LAB, incoming freshman, upper-classmen, graduate students, professors and staff are all in constant dialogue with one another; hierarchies are less important than the sharing of ideas and the ambition to make art.
As student of Gary’s for the past two years, I was honored to participate in the fabrication of his sculpture and to learn new building techniques in the process. My experience working for the Novak Project was extremely gratifying and enjoyable. Last summer I not only developed as an artist, but I was also able to provide for the place that has become something of a home to me these past four years.
The Frank P. and Lilly A. Novak Sculpture Garden was made possible through an estate gift from Lilly Novak. Mrs. Novak also created a significant scholarship endowment in support of Visual Arts students.