Mas­ter arts plan will play on cam­pus’s beau­ti­ful spa­ces

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Community - UC Merced UC Merced Con­nect is a col­lec­tion of news items writ­ten by the cam­pus’s Pub­lic Re­la­tions team. To con­tact the team, email [email protected]

In some ways, UC Merced is still a blank can­vas, even 13 years af­ter open­ing.

But that just gives this year’s artist in res­i­dence Otto Ri­gan more room to dream as he helps de­vise a mas­ter arts plan for the cam­pus.

“I think the cam­pus is beau­ti­ful,” Ri­gan said, “but it’s miss­ing the un­ex­pected…the voice of the arts. If there had been an arts plan in place all along, art could have been in­te­grated as new build­ings emerged.”

Ri­gan is here at least through Fe­bru­ary to work on the plan with peo­ple across cam­pus to de­vise a cam­pus art phi­los­o­phy that will guide UC Merced as it grows.

For­mer School of So­cial Sciences, Hu­man­i­ties and Arts Dean Jill Rob­bins, who re­cruited Ri­gan for the artist-in-res­i­dence post, said she en­vi­sions an arts plan that rec­og­nizes the di­ver­sity and beauty of the re­gion and the cam­pus through art ex­pe­ri­ences that will be­come part of ev­ery­day life at UC Merced.

“We need ex­pe­ri­en­tial art,” Rob­bins said. “We need to cre­ate spa­ces that are not strictly aca­demic, and pieces that speak to us, that ex­press the sto­ries of UC Merced.”

There are places around cam­pus for tem­po­rary and per­ma­nent pieces and ex­hibits and de­vel­op­ing a co­her­ent vi­sion for pub­lic arts will help guide cam­pus aes­thet­ics go­ing for­ward.

“For ex­am­ple, there are wind al­leys on cam­pus, and there are artists who com­pose vis­ual or au­di­ble en­vi­ron­ments driven by wind. There are artists who de­sign en­vi­ron­ments with light or give voice to the flora and fauna in sub­tle ways,” Ri­gan said. “The point is to work with the na­ture of the place.”

He said it’s also im­por­tant to in­clude art that is linked to the sciences, en­gi­neer­ing and other aca­demic pro­grams in recog­ni­tion of the cam­pus’s in­tel­lec­tual and re­search mis­sions.

For Ri­gan, who lives in Tuc­son now, this ap­point­ment is a home­com­ing. He grew up here and grad­u­ated from At­wa­ter High School and started his col­lege ca­reer at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity, Stanis­laus. He al­ways wanted to be an artist, but couldn’t get enough train­ing here, so he moved to Oak­land to at­tend the Cal­i­for­nia Col­lege of Arts and Crafts — now known as the Cal­i­for­nia Col­lege of the Arts — and then to la Ac­cademia di Belle Arti in Florence, Italy, home to such mas­ter­works as Michelan­gelo’s Slaves and his mar­ble sculp­ture of David.

He spent time in Lon­don work­ing in a West End the­ater, in New York and then in Marin County, ap­pren­tic­ing with an ar­chi­tec­tural glass stu­dio and glass artists, be­fore set­tling in the South­west. He has writ­ten books about glass art and art as ar­chi­tec­ture, has helped con­cep­tu­al­ize a mu­seum and see it through to its open­ing, sits on boards of two civic pub­lic art pro­grams and de­vel­oped an art mas­ter plan for an ur­ban com­mu­nity.

He also cre­ates pub­lic art, mostly in stone and glass, but other types, too, in­clud­ing an iron-and­glass en­try sculp­ture and a large earth works at Space­port Amer­ica in New Mex­ico. He said he re­turns to the San Joaquin Val­ley with “fresh eyes and a re­newed mis­sion.”

Peo­ple will get to see an ex­am­ple of his work on cam­pus when, in early De­cem­ber, Ri­gan plans to in­stall a 5,000-pound stone sculp­ture in the open area south of the So­cial Sciences and Man­age­ment Build­ing. This will be a tem­po­rary place­ment that will re­main un­til he re­turns to Ari­zona.

Ri­gan will work with peo­ple across cam­pus to

Otto Ri­gan

en­sure that the mas­ter arts plan is the re­sult of re­la­tion­ships and part­ner­ships, but one that also lets the beauty of UC Merced and its en­vi­ron­ment shine.

“This is a unique place, and it would be best to have a plan that al­lows art that ac­cen­tu­ates that unique­ness. This place de­serves to have its roots and her­itage re­spected,” Ri­gan said. “There are mag­i­cal things that can hap­pen through the arts.”

Otto Ri­gan

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