The MUC was made for it — ‘Plumbob’ — Art in the MUC

Usually, art is designed for a space. This is an understandable method of creating art. You wouldn’t want to create a piece of art that would never fit into the space for which it is designated.

However, SIUE’s Morris University Center did not follow this ‘logical’ path. Rather, the ‘Plumbob’ piece was discovered and then the MUC was designed to fit the art, according to Eric Barnett, director of The University Museum.

“The piece [Plumbob] in the Morris University Center was donated to the University by a member of the board of trustees, Arnold Maremont,” Barnett explained. “He did this because, Gyo Obata — the architect for the first six buildings — saw this piece in an exhibition at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh and convinced him to buy it and donate it to the University.”

Obata then designed the Goshen Lounge in the MUC to accommodate the piece. Obata had always planned for a large installation exhibit for the MUC, but when the piece was purchased and donated, he proportioned the Goshen Lounge around the piece, according to Barnett.

“So rather than being a piece meant for a location, the location was made for the piece,” said Barnett.

Part of the design included sky-lighting that allowed more natural light into the space. In 1967, after the building was designed and constructed, the artist, Yasuhide Kobashi, came to SIUE to install the exhibit.

“The artist had to come to campus in ’67, about the time the building opened, to install it because no one really knew how to install it,” stated Barnhart. “I think that the interesting concept is that the artwork — and there are pieces in the library that are the same — the artwork came before the building was completed and opened.”

There is little known about ‘Plumbob’ amongst the SIUE population. Several students admitted to not knowing anything about the ‘Plumbob’ while others said they had heard a few rumors about it.

“It’s a really interesting piece. I don’t know much about it though,” said sophomore Elementary Education major Nicole Patton. “I was told by another student that if you move one piece of it, the other pieces will not move. They are not connected.”

In the course of explaining the ‘Plumbob’ Barnett said this was not true.

“The dowel rods are strung in pairs so, each pair is the same length and diameter. So the string connecting each pair goes through the top and comes back down,” said Barnett.

Barnett mentioned a book Stephen Kerber wrote about the starting of the SIUE campus. Kerber has also written about the MUC which was part of a larger plan called the ‘Environmental Planning Edwardsville Campus.’

Micheal Mason (left), retired SIUE curator, and Dan Holder (right), then a graduate assistant, now Art and Design instructor, work at cleaning the 'Plumbob' in 1985. Photo courtesy of Eric Barnett and the SIUE University Museum.

Michael Mason (left) and David Huntley (right), first University Museum director clean the dust off of the 'Plumbob.' Photo courtesy of Eric Barnett and the SIUE University Museum.

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