Published: June 4, 2010

RCAH installs ‘Funambulist’

Contact(s): Kristen Parker Media Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Navigating college requires students to perform a balancing act while remaining daring, bold and creative, according to sculptor John Van Alstine, whose 25-foot sculpture of such strength and versatility now stands in front of Michigan State University's Residential College in the Arts and Humanities.

"Funambulist (red velum)," meaning wire walker (red sail), was installed June 3.

"This piece exhibits a great sense of balance and choreography," said Van Alstine, of Wells, N.Y. "Combined with its association to the sail - a form magnificently shaped by the ephemeral forces of the wind - it sets up a juxtaposition between the heaviness of steel and the fleeting forces of the wind, creating a compelling visual and intellectual irony."

The steel masterpiece features a baton carefully balanced on what resembles a bright red sail. 

The construction of "Funambulist" was made possible by MSU's Public Art on Campus Committee. The committee, which formed in 1999, has guided the instillation of more than a dozen outdoor sculptures and 26 painting/photographs. The goal for the public art is to create stimulating learning environments and discussions while contributing to the overall look of MSU's campus.

Stephen Esquith, dean of RCAH, said the decision to install Van Alstine's masterpiece involved cross-campus conversations and feedback from several groups.

"Public art is designed to prompt public conversations. It generates friction, and this is as it should be," Esquith said. "We hope that the conversations and constructive friction surrounding ‘Funambulist' will help guide future decisions we make together about how we represent the RCAH."

Van Alstine will return to campus this fall for a dedication ceremony and to talk with students about his work.


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