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New art pieces installed in Bucksbaum rotunda, HSSC

“Everyday Joy” and “Broken English” were installed over the summer in Bucksbaum and outside the HSSC. Photo by Andrew Tucker.

By Eyerusalem Desta

This summer, two new art pieces were installed at Grinnell: “Everyday Joy,” hanging in the Bucksbaum rotunda, and “Broken English,” displayed outside the HSSC atrium.

“Everyday Joy” is a youthful memorial for Mollie Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student tragically murdered last summer near Brooklyn, Iowa. The latter, a piece inspired by the William Butler Yeats poem “The Second Coming,” was created by Grinnell alum and artist Gregory Gomez.

“Everyday Joy” originated from a memorial fund for Mollie Tibbetts and a child psychiatry room in the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics in need of new artwork to cheer up the space. Per request of a University of Iowa hospital faculty member, Grinnell’s Curator of Academic and Community Outreach Tilly Woodward lead the summer initiative to make murals for the unit.

When the summer art program for kids in the Grinnell area started up in Bucksbaum, Woodward took the mural and tools back and forth from the University of Iowa due to the collaborative nature of the project. She finally decided that there needed to be a lasting piece in Grinnell after seeing her summer students’ hard work. The seeds for making “Everyday Joy” were sown.

Woodward, summer interns, and many others provided support and guidance for the kids involved in the project. The students were very serious and intentional with their work.

“We talked about the importance of doing shapes within shapes within shapes and the idea of patterns on top of the shapes and doing work very intentionally because it would play Mollie’s joy forward in the world,” said Woodward.

To further represent Tibbetts, Woodward asked Tibbetts’ mother about colors that her daughter liked and that would best represent her. A total of about 10 different vibrant and joyful colors are in the piece.

The final product was made with the help of over 300 people in total, bringing communities together to focus on this creation. The colors, shapes, and movement of the piece as it hangs from the ceiling in the rotunda capture the “everyday joy” that the children came up with. The intentionality and seriousness of the participants suggests the sorrow that accompanies the loss of Tibbetts, explained Woodward.

“One of the reasons this project worked so well … is that it gave people an opportunity to process what’s most painful in life … and it also gives people the opportunity to engage with what’s most joyful in life … I think that that’s a really amazing function that art can do for people on both ends of the spectrum, from sorrow to joy, and this piece sort of wraps it all together,” said Woodward.

Another new piece on campus, “Broken English,” developed its style from Gomez’s different experiences in foundry and line work. Gomez has made several impressive public pieces, such as a three-dimensional neuron at Harvard Medical School and a piece that wraps 108 feet around Challenger Learning Center in Tallahassee, Florida.

Over time, Gomez became more interested in making pieces that are “truly three dimensional” and “started to create forms that had information wrapped around it,” such as the William Butler Yeats poem it features.

Gomez explained that he was trying to respond to the poem and take cues from it as opposed to representing it literally. “It uses the power of the poem,” said Gomez. The broken-up letters as well as the broken-up circle both convey the repeating lines.

“’Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.’ It is satisfying in part because that’s a poem I learned in ARH, the building adjacent to the sculpture,” said Gomez.

“Everyday Joy” and “Broken English” were installed over the summer in Bucksbaum and outside the HSSC. Photo by Andrew Tucker.
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