Artist leads students in transforming iconic fountain

Jan. 28, 2015, 11:58 a.m.

In its 50 years on campus, The Claw fountain in White Plaza has hosted a wide range of events from annual Big Game antics to makeshift Mausoleum Parties; in light of the drought, The Claw is now getting a makeover.

Well-known local artist Sukey Bryan is working with students to create a depiction of the sky to be installed — at least temporarily — in the bottom of The Claw.

(Courtesy of Sukey Bryan)
(Courtesy of Sukey Bryan)

The project’s proposal described the fountain outside the bookstore as “sadly empty of water during the present drought.”

According to Bryan, the piece is supposed to be “something that is surprising and enjoyable and brings pleasure, but at the same time is a reflection of what is on people’s mind and an encouragement for action.”

In order to make the acrylic-on-canvas creation that is 35 feet in diameter, there was an open call to students to work on the project over the weekend of Jan. 24. Of the 40 students who signed up to help, only five indicated that they had much experience with painting.

Kendall Weierich ’16 and an Arts Theme Associate at Kimball, the arts-themed dorm, said that the project founds its formal start when Bryan approached Erin and Andrew Todhunter, the resident fellows at Kimball.

“Kimball is gaining speed as a great community for people who are interested in the arts, whether it be musical theater or gallery art,” Weierich said. “It has made my experience at Stanford.”

Bryan also discussed the support she found at Kimball, saying “the entire process since I approached the Arts and Residence Program at Kimball has been very smooth.”

In the past, Bryan has created other pieces focused on the sky and atmosphere, but this one in particular holds meaning. According to the project proposal, “Looking down into the empty pool, we are looking up into the sky where we look for the rain to come…droughts worldwide are becoming more extreme from global warming and climate change. This piece turns our attention to the atmosphere where we are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Claw, which had its water shut off in 2013 along with the rest of the fountains on campus, has been empty ever since. Signs by each fountain read, “Stanford water features have been temporarily shut down to conserve water.”

Although the signs imply the fountains will come back eventually, University administration has not indicated at what point the fountains might again contain running water.

Bryan and the students’ piece will be easily removable, but according to Bryan, the future of the “temporary” art piece is yet unknown.

“It could be in there for a few days, a few weeks or installed and removed and then put back in later,” he speculated.

Weierich says the piece could be in place until Stanford decides to turn back on the fountains.

Participant Hollis Kool ’18, who joined the effort with friend Shiree Lee ’18, said, “Even though we can’t know how long the installation is going to stay, I think it is cool to play a part in Stanford and meet a local artist.”

Lee emphasized the importance of working in groups.

“Stepping back and looking at each of our contributions together really gave meaning to the phrase ‘a group is more than the sum of its parts,’” Lee said.

For now, the duration of the Sky Fountain exhibit is unknown, and no other fountain art is planned. Nonetheless, according to Kool, “art is extremely cathartic and it gave students a great chance to take a study break and to have some fun.”

Ada Statler '18 is an earth systems major hailing from Kansas City (on the Kansas side, not Missouri). She's most passionate about environmental journalism, but cares about all things campus-related.

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