May 04, 2005

Chicago sculptor to create piece for library

by Pete Rosenbery


CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An aluminum and stainless steel mobile that utilizes the unpredictability of the wind will grace Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Morris Library upon completion of the expansion/renovation project.

The wind-driven piece by Chicago sculptor Evan Lewis will hang in the vestibule of the library's north entrance. A rotating exterior piece will turn the interior mobile based on wind direction and velocity.

"The thing that makes it interesting is that because the power source is wind, it's natural and always changing," said Lewis, an established kinetic wind-powered sculptor who operates Evan Lewis Inc., with his wife, Sandra.

A committee comprised of library officials, other campus representatives and community members chose Lewis' proposal over two other finalists last week.

Funding for the project is from the long-standing Illinois Capital Development Board's Arts-in-Architecture program. The state sets aside one-half of one percent of any construction budget on CDB-built facilities to buy art for buildings by artists who live in the state.

"I'm very grateful to get the opportunity to do it," Lewis said. "It's a dream come true for any artist to do a big involved piece like this for a public place, particularly at a university, and particularly at a library."

The outside piece is 24 feet in diameter when stretched out, and will weigh about 300 pounds. The inside piece is 36 feet high, and will move in a cylinder that has a diameter of 16 feet, Lewis said. The piece will be about 12 feet off the ground, and weigh about 500 pounds. Rotors and two exterior secondary arms will connect the two pieces.

The energy that provides movement will come specifically from the wind, meaning the piece will move forward and in reverse, and change speeds based on wind speed and direction, Lewis said.

"I think the fact that a piece moves makes it more interesting to look at and it's also much more challenging for me to create because there are so many physical things that go into it," he said.

David H. Carlson, dean of Library Affairs, said the committee liked the abstract nature of the piece, along with the movement.

"One of the things people liked about it is that it has an exterior component as well as an interior component. We were kind of looking for that," he said.

The front of the three-and-a-half story library entrance section will be glass, meaning the inside piece will be visible from the outside, particularly when illuminated at night.

The proposal called for spending about $125,000 for the artwork, Carlson said. He estimates the sculpture will take between six and nine months to manufacture.

The $42 million library renovation and expansion is the largest capital project in the University's history. It includes a 50,000-square-foot addition and a complete makeover of the existing building's exterior and interior. The project will take about three years, and Carlson believes that work could begin as early as August or September.

Campus beautification is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Lewis designed and produced "The Crossing," a kinetic wind-powered sculpture for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and another large-scale kinetic sculpture at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Lewis' wind-powered sculptures were also featured in the movie "Twister." He is also a well-known furniture designer.