Students spin it in on their way to class, tour guides point it out to prospective students and campus visitors stop by to have their picture taken with it. The Cube — or the “Endover,” it’s official title — is the most recognizable sculpture on campus. But this campus staple is just one of many University-owned pieces around campus.
The University’s President’s Advisory Committee on Public Art highlights pieces of public art the University owns or has been lent and lists about 100 pieces on its website. Those include the Block M on the Diag, Michigan Stadium and the giant spindles of orange I-beams that seem to have fallen onto each other in front of the University of Michigan Museum of Art.
But throughout campus, there are University-owned artworks — particularly sculptures — that are unknown, unclear, hidden in plain view or just painfully obvious.
“They just call it the naked statue, that’s all I know about it,” LSA junior Chris Chou said. “It’s kind of like a landmark.”
Chou is referring to the “Regeneration of Time”: a statue of a man holding a small boy next to a woman holding an apple, and, aside from a tastefully placed leaf, all three are completely nude.
“Regeneration” stands on the corner of Glen Avenue and Catherine Street near the Medical Campus, in front of a parking garage by Angelo’s restaurant.
According to its description on the committee’s website, the man and woman are carrying the child to the hospital, though casual observers often miss the intent.
LSA freshman Lili Thomases discussed the work with friends as they waited for lunch at Angelo’s, a restaurant across the intersection from the “Regeneration of Time.”
“I know an apple is a symbol of temptation, so it could be Adam and Eve,” Thomases said.
“Doesn’t it symbolize knowledge though too?” another girl suggested.
They thought aloud for a few moments, positing different possibilities for the statue. When it was clear there was no one, clear answer, they mostly came to agreement that the statue was different.
“I think it’s really weird … out of place,” LSA freshman Leah Schatz said.
Still, Thomases questioned the validity of that assertion, asking if there could even be a right space for the statue.
“Is there honestly the proper space for art?” she said. “I wouldn’t say that’s an improper spot for anything … you don’t need to go to the museum to go see art.”
“Where else would it be put?” another friend quipped.
Nonetheless, the statue continues to have at least one specific purpose, even if wasn’t the sculpture’s intended purpose, LSA freshman Krista Moussavi said.
“It definitely is a point where people reference to,” she said. “We’re always like, ‘oh there’s the naked statue we’ll meet over there.’ ”
Much farther north than the “Regeneration of Time,” there is a sculpture whose purpose is abundantly clear, but whose existence, and even designation as a sculpture, is relatively unknown.
It’s not even marked on the map of North Campus outside the Pierpont bus stop. Unless a student is familiar with the “Wave Field,” the small bumps drawn on the map would give no cartographical indication of what those bumps mean to the viewer.
The field is known almost exclusively to Engineering and Art & Design students and the residents of North Campus brave enough to venture beyond the Duderstadt Center. The “Wave Field,” designed by Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, is tucked away in a courtyard of engineering buildings and consists of rows of crisscrossing waves that intersect the turf to form grassy moguls.
Engineering sophomore Eldy Zuniga said he was unaware that his frequent nap spot was also a work of art.
“I’m very bad with arts. I’m not sure what defines a sculpture or not,” Zuniga said. “It’s just a place to chill — it’s nice to look at. I go to the (Wilson Student Team Project Center) all the time so whenever I get here early I just lay down and nap for a little bit.”
While the “Regeneration of Time” can bring about discussion regarding the purpose and intention of where we display art, the “Wave Field” has transcended those questions.
“The thing is just to be enjoyed regardless of whether or not it’s a sculpture,” Zuniga said. “You’ll always find, at least some point in the day, someone will be here just chilling. That’s constant, it doesn’t matter what day it is.”
But Zuniga added that the time of day does change how students use the “Wave Field.”
“It’s most popular at night,” he said. “Every other (oscillation) will have a random couple.”
When Zuniga took a moment to think over the field, he said he recognized its beauty, but noted its special meaning to engineers. Engineering and Art & Design students are different lots, but the small grassy dunes are actually made up of sine and cosine waves, which are relevant to both groups.
“It fits here,” Zuniga said, adding that the machine used to cut the grass was specially designed at the University.
Apart from the “Regeneration of Time” and the “Wave Field,” public art abounds throughout the University. Most students might be surprised just how much art they could be missing as they walk to class.