Bringing ‘Velocity’ to SIU – Sculptor and metalsmith John Medwedeff with “Velocity,” as his fabricated steel sculpture was being installed recently at the university’s Transportation Education Center. (Photo by Russell Bailey)

April 07, 2021

‘Velocity’ touches down at SIU’s Transportation Education Center

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The latest addition near the north entrance of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Transportation Education Center fits perfectly with the mission inside the building – training students in the automotive and aviation industries.

“Velocity,” a 22-foot tall fabricated steel sculpture by SIU alumnus John Medwedeff captures the essence of both and is in line with the Murphysboro artist’s perspectives with his work, which he notes, “in a variety of ways already has an underlying focus on the illusion of motion.”

Installation on the 4,000-pound sculpture was finished March 30 and is one of the largest pieces Medwedeff and his staff have built, with a footprint of 10 feet by 27 feet. The sculpture will not be lit due to its proximity to the airport, he said.

The sculptor and metalsmith emphasized that work on this scale requires a team effort, and he credited the Medwedeff Forge & Design fabrication crew of Megan Robin-Abbott and Sarah Dorau.

“It is certainly an honor to have the opportunity to create a permanent work of art for SIU and the TEC building,” he said. “Because it is not on the main campus, many people may be unaware that the facility even exists. I hope that the sculpture will be a draw to bring attention to the work that is being accomplished there.”

A concept for nearly 20 years

Medwedeff explained that “in a vague way,” he had some version of the concept in his mind for close to 20 years and was “waiting for the right time and place, as well as the advancement of my studio’s technical ability to actually build it. “

He designed the piece shortly after visiting the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum and its National Museum of American History, noting that both institutions “trace the history of transportation from sailing ships to steam power, to jets and rocketry.”

“Designing ‘Velocity’ allowed me to express both the industrial and organic qualities that I associate with the architecture of motion,” he said.

Project funding came from the Illinois Capital Development Board’s Arts-in-Architecture program. The state sets aside one-half of 1 percent of any construction budget on CDB-built facilities to buy art for buildings by artists who live in the state. The funds for this project came from building the TEC facility, which opened in 2012.

Scott Collins, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, said the sculpture fits nicely with the programs’ missions.

“We were excited to see the installation of the ‘Velocity’ sculpture,” he said. “The name ‘Velocity’ seems fitting since the SIU automotive and aviation units are located at the TEC and their fields are rapidly moving forward.”

Other works on campus

Medwedeff earned both his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in metalsmithing (1986) and Master of Fine Arts degree (1991) from SIU. He has three other works on campus, including “Combustion,” which hangs in the Communications Building, and “Momentum,” a fabricated steel sculpture on the northeast corner of the university’s Engineering Building. Last year, the centerpiece statue of three Saluki dogs in a running formation representing past, current and future SIU students, was put into place in Saluki Alumni Plaza. The 2 ½ times lifesize cast bronze Saluki sculpture was an artistic collaboration between Medwedeff and Robin-Abbott.


(Photo by Medwedeff Forge & Design)