When Judy Jacobi talks about the art at Purdue University Northwest, enthusiasm and joy light up her face, just as the art around the Westville and Hammond campuses captures the imagination.
Part of the transition that combined Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central into Purdue University Northwest is a more pronounced art presence on the Hammond campus, which includes outdoor sculptures and indoor paintings.
The new focus on art at Hammond follows the lead of the art presence that has characterized the Westville campus for years. There will be a tour on March 25 of the new works of art at the Hammond campus, and some of the artists will be there.
The person behind the art is Jacobi, who is assistant vice chancellor of the University Art Collections and Special Programs.
Nineteen years ago, the Westville campus was one of Jacobi's clients. She owned an advertising agency.
"The campus is 240-some acres of land that looks like a bundle of jewels and is beautifully colored with landscape and plants," she said, talking with her hands and waving them in the air to emphasize her point.
Jacobi said she talked with then-Chancellor Dale Alspaugh about bringing art to the Westville campus in a program where it would be rented or leased from artists.
Today, there are 50 or so pieces on both campuses, the majority at Westville. Purdue Northwest owns six pieces of the fine art, which is valued at about $3 million. The loaned art is not counted in that estimate.
Jacobi said with the exception of some 100 pieces of abstract sculpture and painter George Sugarman’s work, which the university received as part of a massive gift about nine years ago, all the art at the Hammond campus has been newly acquired through recent gifts.
"Hammond had some art from previous gifts, but nowhere near what we have installed since June 2016," she said.
"We have some art on loan such as our seven new sculptures. Large sculptures are less likely to be available as gifts, because artists have invested thousands of dollars into their materials.
"We have focused our effort to transform the Hammond campus and continue to maintain the very high level of collections at the Westville campus. We will be moving pieces from one campus to the other for maximum exposure," she said.
Interacting with campus art
Jacobi can walk through the grounds and buildings of both campuses and describe the art and artist. For example, there's John Adduci's "Odysseus," at the Westville campus, in the middle of the Bard's Pond. The aluminum sculpture represents Homer’s legend, “The Odyssey,” which means journey. The hero, Odysseus, navigates his raft through uncertain waters on his way home from the Trojan War.
And there is "Boundless," by Boyan Marinov, one of several sculptures on display at the Hammond campus. The sculpture depicts a man made of chains.
PNW freshman Christopher Willey, 21, said "Boundless" is one of his favorite pieces in Hammond. Willey said he's also been to the Westville campus, which he said has "beautiful and amazing" pieces of art.
Jacobi said art, unlike politics, doesn't usually raise hackles or make people angry.
"Art encourages exchange and conversation, and sometimes disagreement but all in the spirit of knowledge," she said.
"Art doesn't exist in a vacuum. Art is (a) portal or doorway to learning about everything. Art reflects and dovetails with every academic discipline I can think of. It talks about physics, socio-economic issues, politics and gender issues."
Using art with other disciplines
Some of the professors at both campuses have found a way to incorporate art into the curriculum, and students from across Northwest Indiana have taken tours of the Westville campus.
Retired Hammond campus associate professor of English Zenobia Mistri said she often used art in her Introduction to the Liberal Arts class.
"I wanted my students to understand how impressionists used light," she said.
"I would send my students on a small exercise to go over to the White Lodging Center. I'd ask them to look at something that interests them and write about it. Look at it at different times and talk about how their impression shifted and changed depending on the light."
Professor Karen Church, a limited lecturer in communication and creative arts at the Westville campus, said for the first semester in Communication 114, she asks students to select one of the sculptures and research the artist and work.
"They present a speech in front of the sculpture to the entire class as we travel around the campus viewing and discussing the sculptor, and his influences on creating the sculpture and the meaning/significance of each work," she said.
Pine Elementary School art teacher Holly Beadles said Michigan City Area Schools began a partnership with then-Purdue North Central when the elementary school became a Magnet School for the Visual and Performing Arts.
"At that time they worked with us and installed 'Festival,' by George Sugarman, in our library, which is a large sculpture that fills an entire wall of our library," she said.
"Since that time, the university has loaned us many works in their collection for our students to enjoy. I'll often catch conversations that students are having about the pieces of work we have on display where they are theorizing on the artists' intent or discussing the use of colors."
She said every year, the school takes the fifth-grade class to the Westville campus to look at the sculptures that are scattered throughout the campus.
"The favorite of most students is "Haints and History," by Preston Jackson. It's relevant to them, because they study the Civil War and the underground railroad in fourth grade, and for them it's like history comes alive," she said.
"Students are always surprised to find out there is a piece of the World Trade Towers in the lounge in the LSF (Library Student Faculty) building and are quite moved by seeing it, and the work of Jason Poteet that surrounds it," Beadles said.