BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A public artwork commissioned by a Cleveland
arts group to reflect the effects of wind coming off Lake Erie has
found a new home in Founders Plaza on the sometimes windy North
(Amherst) Campus of the University at Buffalo in a city that shares
Erie's shores with Cleveland.
"For the gentle wind doth move Silently, invisibly" by
internationally known artist Brian Tolle features classical
pedestals and urns that are askew from the effects of the wind.
Installed in the recently restored plaza in October, the
installation is on a two-year loan.
The artwork was perfect for UB since it not only enlivens the
plaza, but reflects the effects of the wind coming off Lake Erie,
says Sandra Olsen, director of the UB Art Galleries and a member of
the committee that brought the Tolle artwork to the North Campus.
"It is amazing," she said. "It sounds like it was made for us."
Since their arrival, the urns and pedestals have generated a lot
of discussion among students, faculty, staff and campus
"Whether you love it or hate it, it generates a fair amount of
conversation and interest, which is precisely what art is supposed
to do," notes Robert Shibley, professor and director of the Urban
Design Project in the School of Architecture and Planning who is
overseeing UB's ongoing master-planning process.
The artwork in Founders Plaza is just the initial offering in
what is expected to be a broader public art initiative at UB.
"If we are to be more competitive, able to recruit, retain and
expect the best from our faculty, staff and students, and
contribute the best we can to the community, we have got to be a
more beautiful, lovable and delightful place," Shibley said. "If we
start with the premise that there is no such thing as an ugly place
so much as an incomplete place, we have a lot of work to do in
landscape, in social and public spaces throughout the campus, to
create the support that students, faculty and staff need to be a
"With that in mind, you can think of every public space as a
kind of almost blank canvas on which to paint," he said. "What we
need to do is put in place a variety of programs."
Restoration of Founders Plaza, which Shibley called "a modest
first step example," initially was conceived as an infrastructure
project. "The question becomes, can we trade up while we fix it?"
he asked, noting that the master plan "will not missing a single
construction opportunity" to make the campus a better, more
So that means new landscaping, new geometry in the paving
pattern and granite curbs, as well as the artwork, which, Shibley
said, presents "an artistic entrance to the plaza."
Shibley said the larger public art program will have at least
three dimensions, the details of which still are being worked out.
They will include formal, gallery-quality, high-profile art, such
as the work by Tolle in Founders Plaza; more experimental,
cutting-edge art; and artwork by UB faculty and students that is
tied to the curriculum and "that is explicitly UB."
The program will feature a wide range of types of art, including
performance art, Shibley said.
"Imagine, for example, at noon, walking the Spine and having
someone with a violin sitting on a bench, like you might in the New
York City subway," he said. "Maybe it's clowns with balloons.
Animating the space on the campus and bringing life to the public
realm is a part of what we're thinking about."
A formal public arts program is not yet in place, Shibley
stressed, noting that the committee that brought the Tolle work to
campus is meeting to develop such a program. The Tolle exhibition,
he said, will serve as "an example of how to go forward" with a
public art program.
The Tolle exhibition came to campus via the intervention of a UB
alumnus, noted California gallery owner Wayne Blank, B.A. '66.
Olsen explained that she frequently meets with Blank, who
founded the Bergamot Station arts complex in Santa Monica and owns
the Shoshana Wayne Gallery with his wife, Shoshana, to exchange
information. During one such meeting, Blank, a member of the
College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Advisory Council, lamented the
barren landscape and lack of sculpture on campus, and suggested
that Olsen contact Tolle about "For the Gentle Wind," which had
been commissioned by Cleveland Public Art and had just finished a
two-year temporary installation in downtown Cleveland.
The timing of the artwork's arrival at UB also was key, Olsen
said, pointing out that it is better to undertake a public art
initiative as part of the master planning process, rather than
after the master planning has been completed. "It fit in with the
interests of the university with having some kind of public art
project," she said.
Moreover, Blank agreed to pick up the costs associated with
installing the artwork at UB.
The next question, Olsen said, became where to site the
A number of locations across the two campuses were considered,
including Founders Plaza.
Tolle, Olsen said, loved the plaza site, which pairs the
geometric squares of concrete in the plaza with the classical
pedestals and urns—traditional shapes askew from the effects
of the wind.
Tolle came to campus and consulted a wind study of Founders
Plaza to map out the locations of each of the urns, she said,
noting that the artwork was installed just before Homecoming
weekend last month.
The artwork will change several times a year, she noted, as the
plantings in the urns change with the seasons. Plaques describing
the artwork soon will be installed at each end of the plaza.
In addition to Olsen and Shibley, members of the committee who
brought the Tolle artwork to campus are Harvey Breverman, SUNY
Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Visual Studies;
Robert J. Scalise, assistant director for exhibitions and
collections, UB Anderson Gallery; Michael Dupre, associate vice
president, University Facilities; Brian Carter, dean, School of
Architecture and Planning; Katherine O. Kittredge, associate
director, Capital Facilities and Space Planning; and Kathleen
Heckman, executive assistant to the vice president for development
and alumni relations.