By Jamie Fleming
Two days after a wooden sculpture crafted by artist Philippe Lejeune was installed on the quad with the help of students, it was knocked down.
“It doesn’t seem like there’s a way to apprehend the perpetrators in situations like this and that’s something they run up against,” Professor Candice Smith Corby said.
Stonehill’s Exhibitions and Collections Capstone’s class worked with the artist Oct. 18 to put up the sculpture, called “Totem”, as part of his “timber!” exhibit. The sculpture is valued by insurance at $5,000.
Oct. 20, it was moved to the senior courts by students late on the night of Midnight Madness. Nov. 10, the statue was put up again in the quad and on Nov. 12 it was knocked down.
The person that knocked it down has not yet been found.
“What it means is that we have some members of our campus community who are capable of really bad decisions. It is one thing to express disagreement with the artist piece; it is quite another to destroy it,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joseph Favazza said
Students said they were disappointed by this latest act of vandalism on campus.
“The greatest violence is the violence we do to ourselves. Honestly, this is only hurting our reputation, our campus, our student body. I had faith that we would be able to put our art on the quad and it would be fine, and people would appreciate it, see it, and recognize that it was art,” senior Caite Sheehan, who is in the class that worked on getting the artist here, said.
Student Sara Shevlin shared her sentiment.
“It’s not just Philippe’s ‘Totem,’ itself. It’s the fact that this happens all of the time. We’re affected by it because this is our thing, but it’s the bridge, it’s the garden,” Shevlin said.
Smith Corby and Professor Allyson Sheckler had worked with the Provost office to get the artist on campus. During his stay at Stonehill in October and November, he hand-painted tree designs on the bike shed near Villa Theresa and on a guard rail near Duffy.
Favazza said the installation was part of Stonehill’s continued support of the arts.
“Public art is a surprise and a catalyst. When we see it, it surprises and evokes a non-literal reality for us. It is a catalyst for conversation and expression, so I want to support public art at Stonehill; it challenged us to think in a different mode while allowing each person who sees it to engage and interpret it in their own way,” Favazza said.
The fact that the sculpture was taken down on weekend nights specifically stood out to those who had a hand in putting the sculpture up.
“My inclination is to appeal to the good nature of the people that I believe we have. Granted, that gets a little foggy if you have too many drinks sometimes,” Smith Corby said.
This, however, has not been the only vandalism on campus, and people are beginning to take note of that.
“It diminishes us as a community of scholarship and faith when art is destroyed, art that has been created quite literally to advance the academic mission of the College,” Favazza said.