Art among the oaks: Public installations on campus

Kevin Lipe, Staff Writer

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Santa Rosa Junior College is home not only to an exuberant student body but a surprisingly vast art collection.  Roaming the campus, you may have already spotted a cleverly placed art piece here or a sculpture there, without realizing that those works holds deep roots within the college itself.

This is also true of any piece displayed in Doyle Library on the third and fourth floors.  The Doyle Collection contains 84 works of art solely created by previous SRJC instructors and faculty, spanning from 1951 to the present. 

“It really gives a 2D history of the campus,” said curator and library technician Scott Lipanovich.

Every art piece there has been donated to the college’s permanent collection.  Lipanovich explained it takes a lot of relationship and trust-building over a period of years to convince artists to let him hang up a piece of work.  Once in the collection, though, Lipanovich has promised each artist: “The work will be up there as long as I am here.” 

Whereas most museums will have a piece on display for a limited time before rotating it into storage somewhere, the Doyle Collection is a permanent display.  “In the end, a lot of the people here have donated for the love of the college,” Lipanovich said.

Community members may take a tour of the art in the library with the help of a new media creation called “Art Talk.”  Next to the mounted name of the piece, there is a QR code visitors can scan with their phone to be taken to a 2-3 minute video of the artist describing their work. 

There’s a different selection process for the large public sculptures around campus.

“I’m part of a group of people who might have some say on how that happens,” said SRJC art instructor Michael McGinnis.“When we got moved into the new library, being a very prominent location, we had some sculptures that were put in during the time the gallery was put together. That was when it made sense that the art department, as a committee, could oversee what would be the aesthetic value of putting a certain piece on campus.”    

Before that, there was almost no rhyme or reason to the placement of public sculpture on campus.  There was a rotating selection of art that went around with money given to an artist for installation and removal.  But as all budgets eventually do, it ran out.  This is where the Voigt Family Sculpture Foundation can come in to help. 

The Voigt Family Sculpture Foundation supports sculpture in public spaces throughtout Sonoma County.  Founded by Al Voigt, the foundation is currently being run by his family.

“Something was meant for a specific location and maybe that place went bankrupt, maybe it was sold, maybe they moved for some reason and the Voigts would then get and be the caretaker of the piece,” McGinnis said.  “This is how Al Voigt got a lot of work.”

One example of the foundation’s generosity is the whale sculpture located on the fourth story of Doyle Library.  A corporation in Rohnert Park initially commissioned the artist known as Monty Monty to build the piece.  When the company was sold and headquarters changed locations, the new owners no longer wanted Monty’s sculpture.  McGinnis found out about the piece and contacted the dean of the library. They both agreed they wanted to save the whale. The Voigt family helped fund the artist to move the piece and get it installed on campus with the help of McGinnis and the artist.  “They have been so kind to the school in that way,” McGinnis said.

As you walk through the main courtyard or Doyle Library, you may feel like this campus is a museum.  It’s rich with its own culture and history, and rooted in the history of the faculty and staff who teach here.  There’s more to this institution than just a place for learning.  SRJC is a home to a creative spirit that allows us to celebrate our instructors and their vast talents.

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