Sculpture Class Creates Functional, Collaborative Community Art

curved wooden benches under pavilionFrom the July 2022 Desktop News |Over the past semester, Craig Wedderspoon and his students in his Beginning Sculpture class installed uniquely designed benches at the Hill Hospital in York, Alabama.  

Wedderspoon believes that the service-oriented, function-driven character of art is often amplified during the execution of collaborative, community projects.  

Wedderspoon was introduced to the Hill Hospital through the work of Engage Alabama, who commissioned the bench project as a part of their 2022 initiative.  

I have always enjoyed going beyond the standard white walls,” said Wedderspoon. “I like works that you can stand on, touch, lean on, and not break anything. That’s the kind of thing I like to do— build things that are serviceable to the community.”  

To create this project, Wedderspoon challenged his students to create a user-friendly product that would meet the needs of the hospital patients. Rebecca Miller, a recent UA graduate who majored in interior design, made an original 3D digital design of the quarter-circle benches that can seat every single patient in the 36-bed hospital, but could also be split into many parts or altered into different seating configurations.  

“Miller’s idea was that there could be this alterable environment that could suit any purpose,” Wedderspoon said. “They might be having a little talk out there, they might be having a little event, or maybe somebody just wants to sit all by themselves, so they pull out a bench over to the side.”  

For Wedderspoon, the definition of what is important and functional for the community is mostly determined by community members and the state of the physical space where the works will be installed. Before starting any project, he gauges its serviceability through field studies and meetings with representatives from the communities. Wedderspoon says that making public art is more about serving the public than the art itself.  

“It’s more interesting when you can collaborate with communities to make something that they are interested in and that you are interested in so that the entire project is a collaborative effort,” Wedderspoon said. “It is an opportunity to be part of a community that is doing something original and unique, that can go out into these communities and give them ownership of their own things.”