Beyond Vera Long, nestled next to the creek, the red-brown erupted brain is hardly noticeable. Cross the bridge to see the broken pieces of a soldier by the parking spaces. Mills art students are giving their artwork homes around campus.
“It’s sort of been this odd tradition when students leave or they don’t have a place in their room for it or it costs $300 to ship it cross country, they just sort of place it there with varying degrees of success,” said Ron Nagle, the Studio Art department head.
This ceramic cemetery, as freshwoman Molly Nelson called it, has been around longer then Nagle, who arrived at Mills in 1978.
Before Spring Break, Nelson attempted to install a piece from her Beginning Ceramics class, a rose with all its qualities inverted, in a tree overlooking a path by the creek. She was told to take it down by her professor, Sean Olson, before he received complaints from walkers.
“I actually really liked Molly’s piece,” Olson said. “I just wish it had been higher or to one side.”
Some pieces seem to have held their own over the years, including a dark lime green bird that sits between trees.
“It’s lasted longer then anything,” senior Felisa Hitchcock said. “They love it; people sit on it.”
According to Paul Richards, the director of campus facilities, there is no real policy about the artwork, but the pieces are left alone unless they are in the way of maintenance.
Nelson said, professors don’t talk about the ceramics cemetery; it is just something students know about.
“I think its just people’s pieces they didn’t like,” Nelson said. “I would like it more if someone made a piece for the space.”
Environmental and site-specific pieces are sometimes put up during the course of a class, but Nagle says he always encourages students to remove them at the end of the semester.
In the end, the professors don’t really have a say in what stays and what goes.
“There’s some work, in any of our cases, in terms of the faculty, that we like better than others and we’d like to see out there,” Nagle said.
“There’s some stuff out there that I’m not crazy about. Some of the best work doesn’t end up there.”
Nagle said it is mostly undergraduate work and “you never know when this type of stuff is going to pop up.”
It looks as if pieces are going to continue to appear.
“I might be installing something,” Nelson said.