For students in Professor of Art Roger Feldman’s Sculpture Studio class at Seattle Pacific University, the answer was zero. Then the students met Bruce Amundson, a physician and retired University of Washington professor. He has 11 outdoor works of art, ranging from 4 to 17 feet tall.
“I love sculpture, because it enhances the beauty of the landscape,” says Amundson. “I can’t imagine why people have yards without art. It’s like cereal without milk.” Thanks to Amundson and his unorthodox hobby, this past spring the SPU art students received a rare opportunity to design and build a large-scale sculpture for Amundson’s backyard, and for the property of his two next-door neighbors.
“In my 20 years of teaching, this is the first time I’ve seen something like this,” says Feldman. “Bruce’s offer is a rare thing.”
The class of nine students visited the three properties in the Innis Arden area north of Seattle. They took measurements, noted details (such as tree positions), and made landscape sketches. Then they started brainstorming.
Common to the three properties was a winding stream. “What if we based the designs on water?” one of the students asked. The idea caught on, and soon the group realized they could use the stream’s shape and other qualities to connect the three pieces thematically. Now they just had to build the sculptures.
Many of the students wondered how they were going to create what they imagined. “The size seemed very overwhelming in the beginning,” says junior Elizabeth Dolhanyk, a visual communication major. “My group made a winding, 30-foot-long deck/platform installation. It really challenged my thinking. And we had to learn how to use several power tools.”
Despite learning construction skills on the fly, a tight timeframe, and the pressure to create pieces for more than a classroom grade, the students enjoyed the opportunity.
“I loved the sense of community this project created,” says senior Andrea Johnson, a studio art major. I’ll never forget Bruce and his generosity. He’s a real gem.”
Feldman is pleased for a different reason.
“This project expanded the students’ horizons.” He laughs. “And it’s got some of them thinking about creating installations for their own homes.”