Athletics and art are uniting at Clemson University with a new sculpture at the Allen N. Reeves Football Complex.
Following the opening of the 140,000-square football complex in 2017, students with Atelier InSite, Clemson’s student-driven public art program, began the process of commissioning the piece. After two rigorous years, main campus’ newest public art is now complete.
Designed by renowned artist Gordon Huether, “All In” is a 25-foot aluminum spheroid structure that encapsulates the building’s purpose and vision while complementing the facility’s existing spatial and aesthetic elements.
“Ultimately, ‘All In’ is intended to reflect the precepts of Clemson’s football program: striving for excellence, individual personal growth and community service,” said Huether, noting how it represents the optimism, diversity and complexity of both the athletic department and the broader Clemson community.
Located outside the facility, it serves as a visual link between students’ academic and athletic successes, which is perfectly summed up by its name, “All In.”
First adopted by Coach Dabo Swinney in 2008, the phrase “All In” has become synonymous with Clemson football. The Tigers are 116-30 under Swinney’s leadership, including winning national championships in 2016 and 2018. His “All In” approach has similarly led to academic success, as his 2018 national championship squad not only became the first 15-0 team in the modern era of major college football but also set program records for team GPA and the number of student-athletes with a 3.0 GPA or better, while also earning the Academic Achievement Award from the American Football Coaches Association.
“Though inspired by the game of football, this piece signifies a metaphoric bridge connecting the academic core of Clemson to the university’s athletics programs,” said David Detrich, an art faculty member who works alongside Joey Manson and Denise Woodward-Detrich to lead the Atelier InSite initiative. “It is also uniquely Clemson in the fact it is ‘by students, for students,’ and enhances the existing cultural capital that makes this university such a distinctive place.”
By students. For students.
Since 2012, four large-scale art pieces have been installed on the main campus of Clemson University.
What makes these public art installations remarkable – beyond the inspired final form of the individual works – is the innovative and inclusive selection process that led to their creation.
Building off of the legacy of Thomas Green Clemson, himself an avid art lover, Clemson University has taken steps to ensure that public art has a permanent place on campus. Thanks to the university’s Percent for Art policy, any capital building project of more than $2 million must have one-half of 1 percent of that investment dedicated to public art.
At Clemson, the campus community is part of the public art selection process. Faculty contribute to the decision-making, and students are directly involved, too, through a Creative Inquiry class, which brings together undergraduate students from different disciplines to work on research projects in close collaboration with faculty.
To that end, the Atelier InSite class was created to provide the structure and broad representation necessary for the selection of public art. Atelier InSite’s motto, “by students, for students,” is behind every step of its rigorous selection process for public art.
Public art. Practical skills.
The Atelier InSite program gives students robust, real-world opportunities to apply the skills they have learned in the classroom.
“Being in the Atelier program has helped me to enhance my design skills, which I will definitely be using after graduation,” said Katherine Comen, an Atelier InSite student and senior visual art major. “The program has taught me about working with a team, as well as communicating well, which are both skills that I intend to use after graduation, too.”
Students participating in the Atelier InSite program have had majors as diverse ashorticulture, chemical engineering and economics. Working alongside students from different educational backgrounds has exposed them to new lines of thought they may not have encountered in their own courses of study.
Students come to Atelier InSite in various ways. Some, like Comen, arrive at the program because of their curiosity about the role of public art at Clemson.
Kendall Massey, a senior architecture major, signed up for the class on the recommendation of a friend who knew of his appreciation of art.
“Public art is important to me because it’s artwork that truly everybody can enjoy or take part in,” Massey said. “The practical aspects of the course and my architecture major have helped me better understand spaces and how public art can improve these spaces.”
Public art with purpose
In 2017, Atelier InSite students put together a request for qualifications, which resulted in more than 230 artists submitting their portfolios for further consideration. The students then worked with campus constituents and the public to narrow down the submissions to 50, then 12 and finally down to three. The remaining artists were required to submit their proposals for the space.
“We developed a set of guiding principles that help our decision-making process and assist us in determining if a proposal is a good fit with the site we have selected,” said Woodward-Detrich. “Atelier InSite members take great care to ensure that each installation is an organic offshoot of the environment it is being placed in.”
Atelier InSite principles and student input were vital in crafting “All In.” Selected from three other proposals, Huether’s sculpture best fit its mandate from Atelier InSite. It not only fit its installation site, but also will engage the people who interact with it.
While “All In” is the latest public art installation at Clemson University, it is not the last. The Atelier InSite team will now set its sights across Bowman Field to the new College of Business. Atelier InSite recently finished the request for proposal process and will select an artist in fall 2019 for an installation date of spring 2020.