Ohio Wesleyan Alumnus to Create 14-Foot Steel Sculpture on Campus to Honor Black Lives
As an Ohio Wesleyan University student, Andrew Wilson took special comfort in the doors leading in and out of the House of Black Culture, a residential refuge for Black students and their allies.
Eight years after his graduation, Wilson ’13 is back on campus as the University’s first artist-in-residence. In that groundbreaking role, he plans to honor the legacy of the House of Black Culture and of the students, faculty, and staff of color who have helped to shape Ohio Wesleyan history for nearly 180 years.
During his semester in Delaware, Wilson plans to design, create, and install a piece of public art inspired by the original House of Black Culture, which was rebuilt in 2019. Wilson’s stainless-steel sculpture will be a 14-foot-tall and 80-inch-wide door with bronze panels that honor OWU’s Black history.
‘An Indelible Landmark’
“The goal really is to make an indelible landmark,” Wilson said. “Something that cannot be unseen. … [The door] creates a portal to Black space, and it shows that we’re important. This is a monument to Black space, and to Black people, and to care. It serves a lot of functions, and I’m excited to see how this conversation grows with current students, with alums, and with other stakeholders.”
In addition to creating the sculpture, Wilson also plans to work with these audiences and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs to create a ritual ceremony that annually serves to “reactivate the structure and recommit to the memory and importance of Black space and Black people at Ohio Wesleyan.”
“The goal is that this process is collaborative,” said Wilson, who now lives in California. “I’m hoping that this work, these conversations … bring folks together to learn our shared history, to learn our shared values, to work toward a stronger future together, especially in the light of our current socio-geo-political moment.”
Wilson, who began his artist residency Jan. 15, currently is researching Black Bishops and their legacies with the help of campus colleagues, including Eugene Rutigliano, curator of the OWU Historical Collection. Wilson also is preparing to begin construction of the welded, hollow-core steel door in collaboration with fine arts professor Jonathan Quick, who oversees the on-campus foundry located in Haycock Hall.
The building is significant, as Wilson’s residency is being funded by The Ebb and Teena Haycock Public Art Endowment. Ebb Haycock, in whose honor Haycock Hall was named, created OWU’s first foundry and ran it for more than three decades until his retirement in 1985.
The public art endowment was created in 2020 by Haycock’s daughter, Lorry Luikart ’73, in memory of both her father and mother. Luikart is pleased Wilson’s creation will have a tie to Haycock Hall and her father’s legacy. “Dad would be thrilled,” she said of the connection. “I’m sure he is smiling.”
Luikart, who met Wilson when they served together on the Richard M. Ross Art Museum’s Board of Advisors, is equally excited by the socially conscious theme of his creation.
“The door visually demonstrates that Black Lives Matter on our campus, and it honors the importance of Black people to OWU history,” said Luikart, who serves on the Public Arts Committee created through the Haycock endowment. “There’s such a story behind the creation of the sculpture. Everything that Andrew’s ever made, I love, so I know it’s going to be awesome.”
‘Amazing to be Back’
Though Wilson’s residency will focus largely on creating the OWU-commissioned piece of public art, he also plans to present three or four workshops and lectures exploring other artistic skills and processes. During his tenure as Ohio Wesleyan inaugural artist-in-residence, Wilson also is committed to highlighting what he calls the “extreme capacity” of OWU’s fine arts studios.
“When I was looking at grad schools, no one even had near what Ohio Wesleyan has for its undergrads, so it’s amazing to be back,” he said.
When he enrolled at Ohio Wesleyan, Wilson was focused on studying jewelry-making, but he later added “sculpture, ceramics, photography, alternative photographic processes, and bookmaking” to his list of interests. In addition to his OWU Bachelor of Fine Arts, Wilson also holds a Master in Fine Arts from the University of California, Berkeley.
A Monumental May
Wilson expects to complete the creation and installation of his steel sculpture by the time spring semester concludes in late May.
“That is our plan at the moment, and we are doing all we can to stick with the plan,” he said. “It is definitely a monumental project, so it will require extreme amounts of work and dedication. I’m very excited about the possibility and also excited about the kinds of collaborations that will come out of it.”
Wilson still is working with the Public Arts Committee, Buildings & Grounds, and the Office of the President to decide where the sculpture will be installed.
“I’ve been walking the campus trying to search out and see what locations make sense, thinking about visibility politics, about the politics of a monument, what do monuments do, and how they function,” Wilson said. “So, there’s a lot of questions to consider.”
Beautiful, Educational, Transformative
University President Rock Jones said he looks forward to seeing Wilson’s completed sculpture in place and celebrating the additional visibility it brings to Black lives.
“In June, Ohio Wesleyan announced our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan to formalize the University’s commitment to Black students and others who face discrimination, repression, and marginalization,” Jones said.
“In many ways, Andrew’s 14-foot sculpture represents the open door and acceptance that we want to extend to all who enter our campus,” Jones said. “It’s exciting to see the Haycock Public Art Endowment support artwork that promises to be not only beautiful, but also educational, and, we hope, transformative. We want everyone to know: Black Lives Matter here.”
Jones said he also is pleased the sculpture is being created by such an active alumnus and accomplished artist.
“I remember fondly Andrew’s presence as a student, including his leadership and the dramatic impact of his work in the 2013 Senior Art Show,” Jones said. “Andrew has remained active as an Ohio Wesleyan graduate, regularly participating in alumni gatherings in the Bay Area and serving previously on the Ross Art Museum Board of Advisors and on the House of Black Culture Advisory Group that helped develop plans for the new house.”
A Community-Building Creation
Asked to think about the long-term legacy he wishes to see for his sculpture, Wilson waxed both poetic and philosophic.
“We need to figure out ways to value each other’s lives more,” he said. “I’m hoping that in this small way and in this small sculpture, some of that community-building can happen because we need it. ... We need to love on each other a whole lot more.”
For more about Wilson and his art, visit www.aiwart.com.