Art project turns attention to construction projects

The art installation located outside FAC was produced by Michael Wheatley in place to raise awareness for the environment.

Rebekah Alvey

Bright, neon flags of construction tape mark a small cluster of trees behind the Fine Arts Center near the top of the Hill, raising questions among passersby of their purpose. 

With the various renovations and construction projects happening around campus, it is easy to assume these trees are soon to be cut down. However, they are a part of an art project done by a student.

The installation was done by senior Michael Wheatley, a sculpture major from Dayton, Ohio. He came to WKU after running his own landscaping business, which he said partially inspired his work.

“I have a soft spot for campus landscapes,” Wheatley said. The intention of the project was to start a conversation about the disappearing landscapes and increased construction on WKU’s campus.

“Green spaces are a break from concrete walls and a place to de-stress after class,” Wheatley said. “I hate to see them take it all away.”

Wheatley said he isn’t trying to start an uprising with the project but just wants people to be aware of what’s going on.

This was the first installation project for Wheatley, who said he usually works with formal art like wood and metal sculpting. 

“It’s a different way of creating,” Wheatley said.

Kristina Arnold, associate professor of art, teaches the installation art class in the spring. For the assignment, she had students make public art using string.

“Public art are pieces in spaces people aren’t used to seeing them,” Arnold said. 

Arnold said the assignment was intended to help students learn the concept of space and asked students to think outside their original perception of art using space rather than objects.

Several of the pieces have gained attention, but the tree installation is so noticeable and visually large that it has drawn the most attention and been the most discussed, Arnold said.

“I’m trying to give them new opportunities with enough limitations to not freak everyone out,” Arnold said. “String is a good, cheap and simple material we are all familiar with.”

Another purpose of the project and class is to teach about audience. In FAC, art students are constantly surrounded by fellow art students. 

“I want them to think about expanding audience,” Arnold said.

Wheatley’s project has gotten non-art students talking about art because it uses a language people understand, Arnold said.

Wheatley said several students have been stopping to read the artist statement.

Sophomore Sarah Root said the project caught her eye but she thought they were recently planted trees.

The project first went up Feb. 2. Usually projects stay up for two weeks, however due to the popularity of the installation, it will stay up longer, Arnold said.

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]