Change in the weather: New artwork arrives on campus

Jaden Satenstein | Staff Writer

Another day, another mysterious structure on campus. Most recently, Washington University students have wondered about the appearance of what at first glance looks to be a collection of metal poles just north of Olin Library.

The instillation, titled “Weather Field #2”, is the newest commission of the Art on Campus program, which was founded in 2010 and is administered by the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts through the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

Weather Field #2 stands north of Olin Library. The sculpture was built as a part of the Art on Campus program, which aims to build a collection of public artworks by internationally-renowned artists.Grace Bruton | Student Life

Weather Field #2 stands north of Olin Library. The sculpture was built as a part of the Art on Campus program, which aims to build a collection of public artworks by internationally-renowned artists.

The program strives to build a collection of public artworks by internationally renowned artists, made possible by a University policy that dedicates one percent of campus project and renovation funds to the acquisition of public artworks. Other pieces in the collection include “Swamp Creature Friends” on the South 40 and “Untitled”, the colorful painting on the easternmost wall of Sumers Recreation Center.  

Currently being installed in Millstone Plaza, the piece consists of 49 stainless steel poles of different heights between 19 and 21 feet. Atop each poll sits a weather vane, which reveals the direction of wind, and an anemometer, which measures the speed of wind.

The proximity of these instruments to each other in the piece causes them to react to one another, making them function unpredictably, strikingly contrasting the organized grid form in which the poles are positioned.

National Endowment for the Arts and MacArthur Fellowship winning artist Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, who designed the piece, first visited Wash. U. two years ago after he was chosen by the Art on Campus Committee to construct a work for the Danforth Campus. After his site visit, Manglano-Ovalle worked on a conceptual proposal to present to the committee for approval.

“Weather Field #2” is Manglano-Ovalle’s second instillation in his Weather Field series. “Weather Field #1” is currently installed in Santa Monica, Calif. The structural engineering for both pieces was done by the architecture, engineering and urban planning firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill.

IMG_5278Grace Bruton | Student Life

Working closely with members of the scientific community, Manglano-Ovalle is greatly interested in exploring the inner-workings of weather through art.

“Physically [Manglano-Ovalle] works in collaboration either with community-based projects,” Leslie Markle, curator for public art at the Kemper Museum, said. “So, I think that was a big part of the interest on the part of the stakeholder committee—the Art on Campus Committee—was that he’s done this collaborative work with scientists and with engineers.”

In addition to having many scientific elements to it, the piece also holds a metaphorical significance, illustrating the way people affect each other, just as the multiple weather vanes and anemometers react to each other.

“He often uses weather and its various attributes in his work and he likes to use it as a metaphor,” Markle said.

Markle projects that the installation process will be completed next week. Wash. U. community members and visitors will soon be able to listen to an audio tour of the piece on the Art on Campus page of the Sam Fox School website.


Those interested in the piece and Manglano-Ovalle’s work will be able to hear him give a public lecture about his work at on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019 at 6pm in the Women’s Building.