University Park, IL,
12:33 PM

Artist’s Message on Syrian Refugee Crisis Becomes Part of GSU Campus

Jeff Stevenson was looking for a project to get his art class involved with in conjunction with GSU’s One Book One University program of “Start Something That Matters.” The result is a work of art that will have the university reflecting on the plight of Syrian refugees.

The book “Start Something that Matters” was chosen as the One Book One University offering because of the way it speaks to the three key initiatives at GSU: Sustainability, Global Citizenship and Civic Engagement. It encourages people to find ways to individually or collectively start something that matters and to make a difference in our local, regional and global communities.

Stevenson, who is the Director of the Visual Arts Gallery, wanted to find a way to bring the GSU initiatives to art in an outdoor space. His research led to Troy Nickle, a Canadian artist who has done work in the past revolving around land conservation and environmental issues.

With the help of students in Stevenson’s Sculpture Parks and Public Art class, Nickle created an art installation by digging out sod and soil in the shape of the Maya Angelou quote, “The ache for home lives in all of us.” Nickle chose the quote because he believes it conveys the common desire in all of us to have a place to call home and belong, which the Syrian refugees don’t have. The quote is now part of the landscape, located on the pathway to Prairie Place.

The artist hopes the piece will create a dialogue and shed more light on a crisis that continues to bring heartache to all those affected. “As opposed to what makes us different, I like the idea of what makes us the same. Through compassion, we can create a more tolerant world and even work for a more peaceful world. If we can create some empathy and compassion toward the plight of some of these people who are suffering tremendously, even on a small scale like this, it will be worth it,” he said.

Geoffrey Bates, Director and Curator of the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park, said the work will be a welcome addition to the Park and hopes it will engage the university and expand people’s awareness of what sculpture might and might not be.

The work is the first landscape piece Nickle has shown on a university campus and is meant to continually change and even devolve, depending on the season. It will eventually succumb to the elements and decay or fall apart.

But not before it delivers a powerful message.