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President's Award for Public Art

When senior Tova Hadar first encountered the oddly elongated "chairs" installed as part of the plaza renovation, she wondered what human shape they were meant to accommodate. Most would refer to the 26-foot seats as benches, but she says, "I distinguish these structures as chairs and not benches because at its end it features a two-foot wide backrest."

Her daydream came to fruition when she received the President's Award for Public Art last spring. Created three years ago, the annual competition is open to all majors and provides students with the means and support to display their art on campus. The project selected remains on view for one year.

Assistant Professor of Art+Design Eric Wildrick, who conceived of the competition with President Schwarz, describes the selection committee he chairs as a "community group, not an art group," and added how impressed they were with the number of solid proposals submitted. Heartened by the growth in student interest and the ongoing support of the administration, Wildrick believes the annual award has become a new Purchase tradition. 

Hadar studies printmaking, but also "dabbles in different media." She drew inspiration for her site-specific sculpture—taken out of context it loses its meaning—from the work of Alberto Giacometti. She welded steel to create the armature and used Styrofoam and spray foam to form the body, which she then carved before covering it with thinned, pigmented cement. "I was surprised by how much like painting the final stages of making it were, in terms of freedom and spontaneity," she noted.

According to Professor of Art+Design Murray Zimiles, "Tova has a talent for transposing images that she encounters. Her drawings and sculpture reinterpret, in her own playful way, other artists' works. Her elongated gaping Giacometti-esque figure both sits comfortably on his seat and is merged with his base (a bench) and environment. Although made of cement, he feels light. To visit him on the mall is to feel surprised and charmed."

Hadar spent the entire summer on campus with Wildrick's assistance crafting and installing Idle, the title of the sculpture, but not its name. "To me, his name is Geo. Geo, as in Giacometti's namesake. Geo, as in rock. Geo as a nickname for my 'summer fling' because really, my summer was all about him," she mused.

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