By Joanne Sally Mero
If you’ve visited Watzek Library in the past two weeks, you may have noticed a wooden kiosk sitting next to the circulation desk. A variety of services were being offered by individual students during different times of the day. On Monday mornings you could get some of your clothes ironed. You could have someone lose an object for you on Tuesday evenings. On Wednesday afternoons if you submitted an anonymously written secret, you were read a secret in return.
The curiosity sparked by the kiosk is the result of the combined efforts of Jess Perlitz’s 200 level sculpture students. Perlitz is the Assistant Professor of Art and Studio Head of Sculpture.
“There is a history in art, and particularly in sculpture, of making art that involves offering a service or facilitating a transaction,” Perlitz said via email. “For example, community arts, social practice, and performance art are all kinds of art that deal with this in some way.”
Perlitz encourages her students to consider the relationship that is formed between artist and audience. An important skill an art student must learn is how to successfully connect the intention of the artist to the viewer.
A literal way of creating this connection is building a framework to facilitate interaction. The kiosk served as a straightforward base for sculpture students to develop their individual service projects.
Sculpture student Allie Gregoire ’19 was inspired by the writing on library desks for her individual kiosk project. While defacement of school property is not encouraged nor condoned, these traces of writing that say “keep it up!” and “hang in there” may be uplift a student’s dejected mid-essay thoughts.
“I always wondered where those messages come from,” Gregoire said. “I’d like to know what (those people) were doing in my spot right now.” This led her to host a letter-writing station. Participants were to write to a future Lewis & Clark student or staff member about anything that was happening in present time. After being sealed and decorated with a fake stamp, Gregoire would take the letters and hide them inside the library for someone else to find. The letters offer affinity to potential readers and creates a reflective space for the author.
The intimidation of bringing the artwork into such a public space was another aspect the sculpture students had to come to terms with. Support of Watzek staff was important in ensuring the success of the project.
Erica Jensen, the Visual Resources and Fine Arts Librarian, had a part in the approval of the sculpture projects. To ensure each project abides by the library policies, art proposals must be approved by the Watzek Art Committee. Jensen hopes the kiosk inspires creativity and invites any member of the LC community to submit an application to have their own artwork featured. This is especially beneficial to students who may not have the means of showcasing their hard work in a professional and safe environment.
“We love having art in here and we want to have as much as possible,” Jensen said. “Together (sculpture students) created this ephemeral space of caring and good will and service in the library. It’s really lovely to see.”
The sculpture project lived in Watzek for two short weeks but leaves the LC community with the conversation of potential. We are left to question even the smallest gestures of human interaction as an artful, interconnected service.