It is immediately obvious to anyone visiting our campus that LMU is deeply committed to public art, both as a means of presenting art in multiple manifestations and to emphasize the importance of accessibility in relation to art being made freely available in the environment. The recent publication of the student-created booklet Public Art at LMU not only highlights the various works of public art on LMU’s campus but also illustrates the cultural significance of public art in community spaces, especially in a university setting in which art fosters both connection and understanding among students and staff.
Public Art at LMU is a featured collaboration between Bryant Keith Alexander, dean of the LMU College of Communication and Fine Arts, alongside the creative work of graphic design students in last semester’s “Introductory Visual Communication Design 1” course, instructed by Garland Kirkpatrick, professor of studio arts. The published booklet was selected as part of a competitive process where student teams presented their work to Dean Alexander and Kirkpatrick, with one design chosen for wider publication. The final selected booklet design was created by Emma Hathaway ’23, Maya Munoz ’24, and Emma Blankenship ‘23, who led photography, content editing, and creative direction, respectively.
Kirkpatrick, a social justice artist whose works have gained exposure in both the U.S. and abroad, describes the project as a “walking guide of LMU’s public art” and that it “represents the great potential for design to give form to communication through the aesthetic decisions made by the students.” Kirkpatrick expanded upon the creative direction of the project by describing it as a cumulative work led by his design students.
Kirkpatrick further emphasized the collaborative nature of the work wherein the dean not only supported the project as an important contribution to the university community, but also as “the client,” allowing the students to have a professionalizing experience within the framework of the course. “The design program has a long history of collaboration with our dean and the wider LMU community, bringing discovered content to life by our student designers,” Kirkpatrick said.
The booklet features images of the various public artworks found on campus, each section divided by different forms and styles of public art, including statues, sculptures, murals, and spiritual spaces. The project became quite personal for the graphic design students who worked on it, as their explorations into the public art on campus revealed the meaning behind the works that resonated with them deeply.
According to Dean Alexander, “It became personal because they made it a passion project; they infused their critical and creative imagination of the possible to push toward the boundaries of potentiality. Their intense mapping of the campus to document physical structures of art was then coupled with contemplations on the deeply felt experiences of the art. So, their engagement of the work transformed the practical into the politics of public art, and the political nature of their documentation was infused with a passion that made the project very personal for them and thus, for me.”
When reflecting on how the creative direction of the project evolved over time, Blankenship said “The project evolved so beautifully because of the feedback we received from our classmates, our professor, and the dean. The quality of the photography and content really captured the essence of the art and brought the book to a higher level. We hope it will inspire people to go out, experience the art themselves, and be as moved as we were.”