The Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art opened an exhibit created by six students and international artist Stan Herd. The exhibit is called an extensive green roof, which includes several live plants. Lindsay Smith, exhibitions designer at the museum, said that is precisely what makes this exhibit so unique.
“This is kind of different for us, because you’re talking about not just an art installation,” Smith said. “You’re talking about live plants which, for second-level gallery space, it’s kind of the first time we did that with live plants in that area.”
The project was originally based mostly around cairns, which are piles of stones that are thought to have potential sacred meanings in different place. It was the students in the project, however, that pushed it one step further and had the idea to create this green oasis.
“(The students) helped (Herd) think about he could create a kind of garden-like atmosphere around the stone structures,” Linda Duke, Marianna Kistler Beach Museum director, said.
Creating this “live” exhibit, so to speak, required a lot of research for both the students and Herd.
“They did a lot of research; they learned about different kinds of stones from around Kansas, they found sources for stone, they worked with a couple of experienced dry masons who taught them how to work with stone,” Duke said. “They also had to explore the weight bearing capacity of that gallery’s floor, because it is a second story, there’s rooms underneath it.”
The students working on the project with Herd did this additional work outside of their class schedules and during their free time.
“All of the students were doing this outside of their course work and were doing it because they really wanted the experience of working with the museum and with Herd,” Katie Kingery-Page, associate professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional and Community Planning, said.
The students were part of almost all phases of the exhibit, from design to installation. This helped the artist, as well as those working in the museum, according to Smith.
“The artist, Stan Herd, loves collaboration, so that was very important for him, as well as the students and the museum staff to have a very cohesive group of people who were excited about the project,” Smith said.
Kingery-Page also mentioned the perspective that the landscape architect students brought to the project.
“A great contribution to the project is that this is what landscape architects do: we think about the experiences that people have in the outdoor realm, not just about the view or appearance of a landscape,” Kingery-Page said.
While the students were assisting the artist and the museum, they were also gaining experience in thinking differently.
“It was wonderful for our students to work with a professional, international artist like Stan Herd,” Kingery-Page said.
According to Kingery-Page, working with an artist helped the landscape architect students to think differently.
“One way that artists think differently than designers, is that artists are really seeking opportunities at every point,” Kingery-Page said. “They don’t tend to define what they are doing as seeking or solving problems. They are seeking opportunities to maximize experience of the world. I push my students to adopt some of this way of thinking.”
The students were allowed to experiment creatively with ideas and visions for the exhibit, as Herd was welcoming to new ideas.
“(Stan Herd) allowed the students a whole lot of creative input, a great deal of creative control, which was a terrific experience for these students,” Kingery-Page said.
Not only were the students sharing ideas, but they were sharing them with a group of people made up of Herd, as well as other museum staff, including Smith and Duke.
“The second thing that was really terrific for these students was to be given a lot of creative input in a collaborative team,” Kingery-Page said.
Those weren’t the only people involved, however. Other professors were involved in assisting in student research, insight and overall support for the project.
“Lee Skabelund and Dede Brokesh, both of them have extensive experience with green roofs, and so they were incredible resource people on this project,” Kingery-Smith said. “We asked them all sorts of questions and they had all sorts of resources to share with us. My colleague, Howard Hahn, is interested in all scales of design, including construction with native stone and green roofs, and was a great resource on the project, from start to finish.”
For each phase of the project, research had to be completed in order to move on. The project began last fall and finally concluded with an exhibit opening last May.
“They laid out all the stones in the fall semester and then in the spring, when it got warm enough to plant, they had, by that time, completed their research on the green roof gardens and selected a company to work with and the planting trays were delivered with the plants already started in them and installed according to the designs the students and Stan had created,” Duke said.
Another interesting part of the exhibit is that it is set to be up for three years, which is longer than most of the exhibits. Smith also said that it will change with the seasons as any other garden, making it constantly changing and evolving.
“They are going to bloom and grow over spring, summer and fall, so that will change and then in the winter time, they will be dormant, so they will have a different color as well,” Smith said.