Ark (1985), by Martin Puryear
This online gallery of the art at York College of The City University of New York puts in one place most of the art that is accessible to even the casual campus visitor. And it meets a need. With the exception of several highly visible sculptures and installations, most notably James L. Johnson's Copper Airplane and Martin Puryear's Ark (at right), the art at York College mostly goes unnoticed. Students, faculty, and staff go about their business on campus without lingering over works of art produced by world-renowned artists.
Many college campuses have an art gallery, a space where individuals might go to see and to reflect on works of art. Such spaces put people in the mood to experience art, to be sure. But people also visit galleries already primed for the experience. York College's physical art gallery is an inviting, intimate space that generally showcases student artwork. The rest of the art on campus is sprinkled throughout the Academic Core Building, the Performing Arts Center, and the Health & Physical Education Building.
In our research for this project, we discovered that many individuals were unaware of the provenance of even the art displayed in their physical work spaces. Michael Brenson, in his 1988 review of York College's public art, anticipated this sort of experience soon after the opening of the Academic Core. He described the challenge of York's art with a critical question: "What can art do for institutions like York College that were not built with art in mind?"1 York College is not an art gallery in any traditional sense.
One important goal for this online gallery of art at York College is to help change the way in which students, faculty, staff, and visitors experience York College. In the absence of a physical gallery, we have built a virtual gallery to help frame the way we see art on campus. Perhaps this virtual re-framing of York College as an educational/art institution will respond to (if not answer) Brenson's question.