Standing tall outside the southeast corner of Tarble Art Center, a pair of Jeff Boshart’s sculptures tower over all who travel past the building’s Ninth Street entrance.
Made possible by a grant for research and creative activity, Boshart’s works were inspired by an assignment originally handed out to his students; some of those same students even had a chance to get involved in their creation.
“Several years ago, I tried to get students to do a project where they were using a well-known influence and to take that influence and twist it around and make it contemporary,” said Boshart, a professor in the Department of Art. In giving that assignment, he was inspired to create his own series of projects with the same theme.
“David Smith is a famous sculptor from the 1950s who welded together stainless steel boxes,” continued Boshart. “What I’ve done is take the framework of the boxes, not the faces or surfaces of the box, because my whole take on it is that his boxes reflected the surroundings, whereas my boxes allow you to see through to the surroundings.”
Boshart’s grant gave him not only the means to purchase equipment and material, but also to pay students to help him with the physically taxing aspects of working with large volumes of steel.
“In hiring students, I’ve been able to pay them a decent enough wage that it makes it worthwhile for them to come to Charleston to work with me,” explained Boshart. “This last summer, I had a couple young men who helped me. We got all the steel cut in three days instead of three weeks … they move a lot faster than I do and they take direction wonderfully well.”
For the students, Boshart feels the experience was more than just an opportunity to make a little money.
“This is an experience they’re not going to get in their professional lives until they can afford the materials for something like this, which could be years or decades.
It’s nice to have that kind of mentoring position here at Eastern, where I have the opportunity to pay the students, use them, develop their skills, and have them feel like they’re part of the profession.”
In addition to the two pieces outside Tarble, another is located outside the s51 building on North Neil Street in Champaign.