Art proposal selected for NWC Yellowstone Building


After being on hold for more than three years, plans for a sculpture outside the Yellowstone Building at Northwest College have changed, but are moving forward.

Denver artist Jodie Cooper has been selected to create a sculpture for the building, according to a statement from the Wyoming Arts Council.

Through Wyoming’s Art in Public Buildings program, Cooper will create a two-part steel plate sculpture that will be installed outside in the grassy area adjacent to the Yellowstone Building. Titled “Infinite Pattern Esses,” the piece will be laser cut with an organic pattern that will create shadows on the building throughout the day, the statement said.

Over 22 feet in length and 10 feet tall, the $39,000 sculpture will complement the architecture of the building and is interactive, allowing students to walk in and around it. Installation of the sculpture is expected to be completed this spring.

Denise Kelsay, NWC art and galleries coordinator, served on the committee that selected the sculpture proposal.

“We were looking for something that was not representational; we weren’t looking for something like a giant elk, or an artistic realistic representational piece of art,” Kelsay said. “We were looking for something that was more abstracted, that the viewer could develop a relationship with in different ways and interact with.”

This design facilitates that, she said.

“[It] is a two-part sculpture that allows the viewer to actually walk into it. It has a graphic element that will create shadow and light, and it will change with the time of day,” she said.

Through the changing shadows and light, the sculpture also will interact with the building, she said.

“It was large enough to not get lost, but not so large that it felt out of place,” Kelsay said, adding, “Originally [four years ago], we were looking for a pretty monumental piece of art.”

The committee originally chose a proposal for a glass and concrete tower to be installed in front of the building. When the sun hit the glass, the sculpture would refract the light in unusual ways.

That sculpture was approved in 2014. The cost was to be paid with $100,000 provided through Wyoming’s Art in Public Places program, which sets aside a portion of the construction cost of qualifying new public buildings for art projects.

However, the design proved unfeasible.

Lisa Watson, NWC vice president for administration and finance, said the proposal did not consider the cost of the foundation that would secure the sculpture or take into account factors such as the wind load or the geothermal field for the building.

“That, along with the foundation needs, left the project outside of budget,” Watson said.

Meanwhile, another art project previously considered by the committee was installed in 2015, thanks initially to a donation from Dennis Brophy, an assistant professor of psychology who has since retired.

Brophy, who also served on that committee, donated the cost of “Enduring Vista,” a mosaic tile mural designed for a sawtooth-shaped wall of a corridor on the ground floor of the building. The mural juxtaposes a large image of an orange and red sunset over Heart Mountain with a black-and-white image of blurred faces in a crowd.

The Heart Mountain image was installed in sections on the longer, 8 1/2-foot segments of the wall, facing south. The faces in a crowd are on the shorter sawtooth edges, facing east.

Viewers coming into the corridor from the west end of the building see the Heart Mountain image; those on the east end see the faces.

After plans for the proposed tower fell through, state officials decided to pay the $54,500 cost to buy and install the mosaic mural, said Rachel Clifton, assistant director of the Wyoming Arts Council.

“That is now a state-owned piece,” Clifton said. “My understanding is that it was the second-favorite proposal of the original committee.”

That left $45,500 to pay for a new sculpture project.

“So we’re ending up with two works of art, but it did mean that on the second work of public art, we had less money to work with,” Kelsay said.

It was challenging to come up with a design for a sculpture that was large enough to make a significant visual impact, but Cooper’s design accomplished that at an affordable cost, Kelsay said.

Other committee members were Watson, Fred Ebert, Aura Newlin, Jerry Rodriguez, Steve Shrepferman, Shelby Wetzel and Gerald Giraud.

Brophy’s donation was put into an endowment he previously established with the Northwest College Foundation to provide money for future works of art on the NWC campus.

Wetzel, the executive director of the foundation, said $10,000 of the cost for the new sculpture will come from the endowment, at Brophy’s instruction.

Kelsay said the endowment will help provide more outdoor works of art to the campus.

“We have interior art on the human level — a more personal kind of art — but the outdoor public sculptures is something that I believe we need more of,” she said. “I think it just enhances the college atmosphere, and the college as a whole.”

The Yellowstone Building houses state-of-the-art facilities for criminal justice, nursing, social sciences and communications, as well as a conference area and other public spaces.