Snowbound Sculpture Ruined

Andrew Wickerham

This week, for what may be the first time in Colgate history, snow removal created a bigger problem than it solved. In an apparent miscommunication between students, faculty and Buildings and Grounds (B&G), a temporary art installation crafted from snow was effectively destroyed when B&G staff shoveled the piece into one of the larger snow piles outside of Little Hall.

The installation was the brainchild of Agata Olek Oleksiak, an acclaimed Polish-born artist on campus for a sculpture symposium scheduled as part of the Arts!Week festival. No stranger to Colgate, Oleksiak spent the Fall semester on campus as an artist-in-residence. According to the artist’s website, Oleksiak’s body of work is extensive and includes installation pieces in museums and galleries worldwide.

The installation at Colgate was a last-minute addition to the Arts!Week program.

“Agata wanted to improvise with the materials at hand,” Arts! Week organizer senior Rachel Vining said. “So, she worked with snow.”

Vining and senior Zach McCollum, who worked closely with Oleksiak on the project, said that the piece involved piling snow inside an open-air vestibule at the entrance of Little Hall facing Whitnall Field. The snow, removed from the bottom of an outdoor staircase, was shaped to create a natural-looking snow-scape. Snow also cascaded down one side of the staircase, but, according to McCollum, did not block access to the building.

“Of all the places on campus, we thought that the installation would be acceptable there,” Vinning said.

She said that, as a result of the incident, similar projects in the future would likely involve an approval.

Oleksiak herself could not be reached for comment, but, according to the student organizers, she was upset by the destruction of the piece. There was discussion that the snow used for the piece might have been bagged and sold over the Internet, but the shoveling prevented the follow-up project.

“At one point there was the threat of a lawsuit, but [Oleksiak] is now dropping that [possibility],” Vinning said.

Also at issue is the apparent decision to bill Colgate’s Arts Initiative, which funded the festival, for the snow removal costs.

“I don’t know who decided to take it down,” McCollum said. “We’ve only been told that we’re being charged. Agata went to B&G herself and wanted them to bill her.”

At press time, neither B&G staff nor representatives from the Art and Art History Department could be reached to comment on the billing question.

Despite the loss of the installation, the students involved did not regard the project as a total failure.

“Art making has always been about sparking discussion,” McCollum said. “I think enough people interacted with the piece.”