Campus News

Beauty of campus art: Pieces selected to inspire viewers, encourage thinking

In between classes, meetings and other obligations Kirkwood Community College students, faculty and staff are able to walk the halls viewing and enjoying thousands of works of art in a variety of styles. 

From “Bloom,” the hanging piece by Susan Chrysler White in the atrium of Cedar Hall to the abundance of photographs by American photographer and Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame member Joan Liffring-Zug Bourret, from the illustrations of former “Cedar Rapids Gazette” illustrator John Paul Schafer which line the hallways of Benton Hall to “Box,” a wood and stainless steel wall piece by renowned sculptor Louise Nevelson, campus artwork comprises a stunning collection that serves to enhance and complement the college experience. 

Arbe Bareis-Moyyad, associate professor of painting and drawing at Kirkwood, said he believes campus artwork has many purposes. “Art creates a friendly learning environment. People tell me there are certain areas on campus that make them feel happy, contented, relaxed by seeing the art,” he said and added, “It has didactic qualities, teaching qualities. Students can learn about culture. They can learn about different kinds of diverse situations … Kirkwood is about helping students succeed, while they’re at Kirkwood and after they leave Kirkwood and I think the art helps support that.” 

Since 2006 Bareis-Moyyad has served as the curator for the vast art collection across all of Kirkwood’s campuses, a position he said he “fell into” after a number of years running the art gallery in Iowa Hall. He explained he attempts to acquire art that is visually appealing, that opens people’s minds to get them to think and that has artistic and visual integrity. 

Bareis-Moyyad selects art for buildings based on the types of things being taught or accomplished in those buildings. For example, Washington Hall, which hosts agricultural classes, contains art related to farming, such as images of farms and farm equipment. According to Bareis-Moyyad, art that is specific to a building or floor of a building is sometimes used for educational opportunities, like inspiration for writing assignments. 

Variety is a key feature of Kirkwood’s collection, which includes abstract and realism paintings, photography, glass, ceramics and metal work. Bareis-Moyyad noted, “There are all different styles at Kirkwood. There’s a Rembrandt etching in the collection. There is Native American, both South American and North American, artwork in the collection.” Also included is a work by the highly respected Cedar Rapids painter Marvin Cone who taught art at Coe College for more than 40 years.  

For those looking to simply walk the halls in solitude and introspection the art can serve as a focal point and an opportunity to enter a contemplative state. 

The Kirkwood art collection contains pieces, some of which were commissioned, created by local artists, other artists with a connection to Iowa and former and current students. Though some pieces are purchased others are donated to Kirkwood. Many of the donations occur through the Kirkwood Foundation.  

Financial donations are also made by artists and art enthusiasts through the Kirkwood Foundation to help expand the art collection and support Kirkwood’s art programs. For example, an endowed scholarship established by Iowa City artist Madeline Roemig-Bendorf provides assistance for students pursuing careers in fine arts. 

Due in part to this community support, Kirkwood has been gifted with what Bareis-Moyyad describes as “one of the best art collections in a community college in the nation … Kirkwood as a whole is one of the most special community colleges in the nation. We are embracing, we … strive for excellence in everything we do. The art in the hallways reflects the excellence that we are trying to accomplish as an institution and as individuals, as faculty members, as students, as staff members, as administrators.” 

He continued, “Kirkwood gives you the foundation to … unleash the unlimited potential for excellence that each student has.” 

Bareis-Moyyad said he believes when discussing campus art it’s important to remember that how the viewer thinks of and experiences the art is as important as what he thinks. He stated he selects and places the art to, “Light a bulb in your mind to think about the world in a different way. That is what this is all about, all of the art in all of the buildings is about getting people to think in ways they hadn’t thought before. No matter what your major is, no matter what your career path is, no matter what your goals in life are.”

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