For the past four semesters, more than 50 visual art students, faculty and staff have been working on a commissioned work for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The sculpture, “An Abounding Asset: A Diligent Reserve,” became a permanent display Nov. 15 as the Reserve celebrates its 100th anniversary.
This educational partnership began with students being tasked to develop 400 ideas that would be narrowed down to just three to present to the client. Led by Matthew Burke, visual art professor and sculptor, “Special Topics in Art: The Federal Reserve Commission” provided a rare professional opportunity for enrolled students.
“Art students are used to generating work for either their professors or themselves. But this commission project asked them right away, no matter their level, to address the parameters of the project in thoughtful and imaginative ways,” Burke said. “Surprisingly, they found this liberating for the sense of purpose and direction it offered.”
Students learned there is much more involved in a project of this scale than just creation, he said. It forced students to think about how to pack, ship, document and record, along with many other things that go into placing an art piece into the world.
“This project has given me experience in finding the balance between my personal desire for expression and the obligation that I have to the bank to produce something that matches what they are expecting,” said Alex Case, visual art student. “I feel like it has given me a much better understanding of how this process works and how the field of art is run in the real world.”
Burke is considering pursuing more projects like this for students. Though met with challenges, the project opened up a new model for teaching and executing research.
The sculpture will be located at the bank, 1 Memorial Drive in Kansas City, Missouri. Because of the sculpture’s versatile design, versions of the piece also will be on display at the bank’s branches in Omaha, Nebraska; Oklahoma City and Denver.
The Department of Visual Art is one of four departments in the School of the Arts. As part of the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of the Arts offers fresh possibilities for collaboration between the arts and the humanities, sciences, social sciences, international and interdisciplinary studies. The Department of Visual Art provides students with the technical skill and cultural awareness essential to the careers of professional artists, scholars, teachers or administrators.