Work of prominent Columbus artist is central to new university center
Feb. 7, 2007
Laid permanently on the atrium floor at Ohio University's Baker University Center, the art of Aminah Robinson depicts scenes from Poindexter Village, one of the country's first federally funded housing developments, where Robinson grew up.
"It could be any street anywhere in the world," Robinson says of the piece. "I hope (Ohio University students) see something in the work and go back to their own community and think about the street they call home."
You're invited to Baker University Center's grand opening
Baker University Center will have a grand opening celebration Saturday, Feb. 10. Events begin at 11 a.m., and include the dedication of the Robinson art installation at 11:30 a.m. and a fireside chat with Robinson at 2 p.m. in the 1804 Lounge.
For a complete list of grand opening events, visit www.ohio.edu/center/events/.
Community is central in the artwork of the Columbus-based, African American artist. It is especially fitting that these scenes greet visitors of the new Baker Center, reminding them of the cohesive society that rests inside.
"Aminah's work is about community and the importance of community in our culture," McWeeny says. "She sees the center as a central place where people come together to form a community."
The university hopes everyone who passes through the atrium will feel like they are part of the rich, interesting Ohio University community.
For the art installation, Robinson interpreted her paintings in terrazzo -- a new artistic material for the artist. Terrazzo is a material made up of small chips of stone embedded in colored concrete and polished. Throughout her career Robinson's narrative images have been made from found object, wood, paint and other eclectic materials.
"Her highly animated characters are direct, expressive, raw and emotive. They are visually rich and sophisticated while retaining a charming simplicity," Dean of the College of Fine Arts Charles McWeeny says.
Robinson hopes the piece will inspire all who experience it.
"My hope is that if they (students) haven't already become inspired by their own families and communities that they will, and they will teach all of us something about the evolution of not only their families but their communities wherever they may be in the world," Robinson says.
Robinson, born in 1940 in Columbus, Ohio, studied painting at the Columbus College of Art and Design and philosophy and English at the Ohio State University. A 2004 recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellows grant, her work has been presented in New York, Columbus, Akron, Baltimore, Oakland and Santiago, Chile. She was commissioned in 2003 to create the signature piece of public art for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and she has also received the Ohio Arts Council's Individual Artist Fellowship and the Governor's Award for the Visual Arts.
Prolific and eclectic, Robinson has produced more than 20,000 works including drawings, woodcuts, cloth paintings, carvings, sculptures, prints, book illustrations and quilts.
"It is a wonderful and graciously humbling experience to find my work as a part of the structure of Ohio University," Robinson says. "But I am reminded by the elders of my community who passed on these stories. This work is not about one person. I am simply one who listens and tries to carve out this oral tradition in any way that comes to me or through me. Those stories are a part of that whole community and all those I have been privileged and honored to be a part of. So it's wonderful that their voices can be heard through time. That's what the work is about."
Her floor mosaic comes to Ohio University thanks to the Ohio Percent for Art Program administered by the Ohio Arts Council. The program requires that 1 percent of the total appropriation for a public building that costs $4 million or more goes to artwork.
"Accessibility to the arts is important, and having a public work like Aminah's sends a message that we value the arts and the message they bring to our public spaces," says McWeeny, a member of the Percent for Art Committee that selected Robinson for the Baker commission. "Public art creates an environment where students and faculty can be intellectually engaged while they move through the space."