The constantly evolving landscape of sculptures scattered across UAH have become a fixture of campus life. As a result, it can be easy to forget about them, to allow them to fade into the background and become just another quirk of UAH’s layout, and to neglect just how interesting they really are.
Everyone has seen them, however, and everyone has probably wondered about them at one point or another. Whether you’ve been startled by the figure of a small house on legs next to the library (the aptly titled “Hurrying Home,” by artist Charlie Brouwer) or confused by the giant squid (or tree, depending on your angle) outside Shelby (“Moving On,” by Richard Herzog), they have inevitably made some impression. If nothing else they’re surreal, bizarre, and often where you least expect them.
The sculptures form part of SPACES, a sculpture trail project that spans Huntsville and was conceived in 2010 by the non-profit organization Arts Huntsville along with UAH, Alabama A&M, Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment Center, and the Huntsville Museum of Art. It has since also come to include the Madison Arts Council, Ditto Landing, and Stovehouse.
SPACES consists of a series of sculptures spread across the Huntsville and Madison area, including 14 currently at UAH. These are sourced from a pool of artwork that has been donated, sold, or loaned to Arts Huntsville collaborators. While some of these are permanent or semi-permanent, most of them are switched out on a biennial basis and may be moved around at any time to accommodate new installations, or simply to change the scenery. A full list of current SPACES sculptures, their locations, and information about the artists and techniques can be found on Art Huntsville’s official app: SPACES HSV, available for Android and Apple platforms.
Each entity involved in SPACES has a representative to select and maintain sculptures for their organization. UAH’s representative is assistant professor Chris Taylor, who teaches classes on sculpture and art and whose work can be found on his website, walkingcubes.com. “For UAH’s campus, my goal has been to make sculptures that kind of embed themselves in the landscape,” Taylor explains “they’re integrated into the flow of pedestrian traffic.” He encourages students to interact with the sculptures directly. Some, such as the multiple silvery “Vessel” pieces by Craig Wedderspoon, in front of the Student Services Center, can even be safely climbed into and examined from the inside.
One noteworthy installation is “Geode,” the large circular piece in front of the Salmon Library that some students have compared to a laser cannon or an arc reactor. Designed by professional sculptor Harold Van Houten, “Geode” originally stood in Huntsville’s Big Spring Park until 1995, at which point it was placed in storage before coming to UAH in 2008. “Geode” is owned by the university, but on loan to Arts Huntsville.
There are a few pieces across campus that won’t show up on the current Arts Huntsville listing. These are pieces that were donated or leased to be part of SPACES, but have not been picked up by artists and therefore remain as holdovers from previous iterations of the trail. One example of this is the cracked and weathered “Plug Tunin’,” by Paul Howe, located in front of Roberts next to the bright red “Cherokee,” by Lyman Kipp. Taylor has expressed an interest in having a group of art students repair the piece, but there are currently no definite plans at restoring it.
Taylor hopes that SPACES will continue to inspire and engage students. “We think of arts as being in a gallery, but arts can be in public, art can and should be part of our environment,” Taylor says. “People are able to enjoy not only a more beautiful campus, but a campus that might challenge their ideas or interest them.”