A photo of Rowan students creating a course project

Student engagement with campus public art

Situated along landscaped walkways, open green spaces, or within campus buildings, Rowan University’s public art beautifies our campus, enriches our community, and contributes to our cultural heritage while offering opportunities for fellowship and reflection. In addition to enhancing campus beauty and quality of life, public art encourages creative and critical thinking, expands appreciation for art, fosters a sense of place, affirms the University’s values and tradition, and extends the scholarly and creative culture beyond the classroom.

From an academic perspective, public art is a fascinating and relevant field to research. For example, public art has a long, rich history and since it is also an interdisciplinary arts practice, it is a unique topic of study. In addition, public art is a reflection of our history and how we view, care for, and collaborate to make our community better. As a consequence, public art is studied by a diverse group of scholars including art historians, architects, engineers, historians, geographers, and social scientists. In education, public art can be integrated into the curriculum to inspire creative and critical thinking, teach history and culture, explore digital scholarship, develop awareness and appreciation for art, and to explore the human condition.

Public art is also a unique topic of study because the artists who are commissioned to create public artworks usually design the work for a specific location and often explore multiple themes. At Rowan University, the public art collection explores themes in the humanities, biology, engineering, geography, literature, mathematics and science, medicine, philosophy, and even University history. For example, John Ottiano’s sculpture, “Growth #50,” was designed to commemorate our institution’s fiftieth anniversary. The student government selected its location in front of Chamberlain Student Center, and the students raised funds to install the iconic and conspicuous work. Students also helped design and build the sculpture within Dr. Roger Cantor’s sculpture class. The piece truly represents the collaborative spirit and tradition of our community.

In the spirit of our collaborative tradition, the Rowan University’s Public Art website was developed as a digital scholarship project by the Campbell Library Digital Scholarship Center in association with University Publications, University Planning, and the Rowan University Art Gallery to inspire new research, course projects, outreach, and creative development related to public art. The website can be used as an educational resource to explore topics related to public art such as art history, creativity, environmental studies, geography, history, writing, public spaces, and placemaking. If you would like to collaborate on a course or research project related to public art or need help to develop an idea contact the Campbell Library Digital Scholarship Center at dsc@rowan.edu.

Ultimately public art is an expression of our values and an important field to study. It beautifies our environment, reminds us of our history, inspires new connections and creativity, builds our sense of community, and encourages us to ask questions, share ideas, and continue to grow and explore.


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