A ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday at Baker-Butler Elementary School only marked the beginning of a unique project — created by art …
A ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday at Baker-Butler Elementary School only marked the beginning of a unique project — created by art students and faculty at the University of Virginia — that will continue over the next 30 years.
UVa alumnus Evan Howell came up with the idea about three years ago. Howell (who couldn’t make it to the ceremony) wanted to create a sculpture that would be partially buried and slowly excavated by students every year.
At Tuesday’s ceremony, only the top of the 10-foot-tall monument, designed by recent UVa graduate Nick Watson, was visible. The rest is buried with thousands of pieces of student-created pieces of ceramic art. Each year, students at the school will dig out part of the site and excavate these artifacts, left for them by students from earlier years.
The process will take about 30 years, said Bill Bennett, an associate sculpture professor at UVa who led the project.
“Art is a gift,” Bennett told a crowd of about 600 students at the ceremony. “It’s a gift to make it, [and] it’s a gift to give it away.”
Watson stood next to a scaled-down model of the sculpture, which features stones from the site of the school framed on either side by steel. The students voted to name it “Waterfall of Stones.”
Watson said he likes the name.
“There’s the inspiration of nature in a lot of my pieces,” he said.
Next to the sculpture is a miniature amphitheater, which was not part of the original plan, but Bennett said it gives the new space a practical function. Bennett’s team also contributed the bollards lining the stone steps that lead to the top of the structure. After the ceremony, some students went onto the steps to have pictures taken.
UVa has contributed several sculptures to Baker-Butler over the years. Most recently, the university created and donated the “reading bears” sculptures found at the front and near the playground. Students helped with that project, too, by adding texture to the surfaces of the two sculptures.
For the latest project, Bennett and his team created something that would engage students for many years. In this case, it’s a site containing artifacts from previous classes — an archeological dig on the grounds of Baker-Butler Elementary School.
The school will hold an International Archeology Day each year, in which the students dig out part of the sculpture and a few of the 1,500 artifacts preserved under the soil. The university’s archeology department will be helping out.
“It’s a living sculpture,” said Steve Saunders, the school’s principal. “It’s not just something to look at, but something to learn from.”