A nature-based sculpture project launched by Western Carolina University’s Fine Art Museum will feature outdoors art while promoting discussion of sustainability and aesthetics on campus.

The project will bring Camp Little Hope, a team of artists, to WCU to help create a site-specific art experience inspired by the Great Smoky Mountains on the university’s multi-use trail. Walker Tufts, Mary Rothlisberger, Greg Stewart and Aislinn Penetecost-Farrin will be in residence on campus Friday, April 8, through Saturday, May 21.

The Fine Art Museum will host a project orientation meeting led by Tufts at 11 a.m. Monday, April 11, in Room 130 of the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center for interested collaborators and volunteers. Volunteers can sign up to participate in the project at that time.

The project is funded by the WCU Sustainable Energy Initiative, with support from the College of Fine and Performing Arts, Facilities Management, Base Camp Cullowhee, School of Art and Design, and the Fine Art Museum. The museum will be responsible for the installation and care of the outdoor exhibition as part of the university’s public art collection.

The student-comprised Sustainability Energy Initiative Committee began taking proposals last year for environmentally-friendly ideas from WCU students, faculty and staff to improve campus sustainability while providing educational value for students at the same time. The committee’s annual operating budget comes from a $5 per semester fee paid by students.

“We were thrilled to receive the proposal for the nature-based sculpture,” said Zack Waldroup, a member of the committee and a WCU senior majoring in environmental science. “This project was unique in that it wasn’t what most people would think of as a sustainability project.” However, the use of natural materials as well as the project’s location on the campus trail system, which adds to the aesthetic appeal, meets requirements perfectly, while promoting environmental consciousness and heritage, he said.

“Our committee is excited for the outcome of this project to show students that they can think of ‘out-of-the-box’ projects that can still fall within our requirements for funding,” Waldroup said.

The outdoor sculpture will be titled “LUNG” and represent an intimate experience of the relationship between the lungs of visitors and hikers, and the lungs of the Earth. “The sculpture is inspired by the exhaled plant vapor that composes the ‘smoke’ of the Great Smoky Mountains,” said Tufts of Camp Little Hope. “Two great winding contraptions, representative of pipelines, nurse logs, ear horns, and old gramophone speakers, will twist along the paths. They will be created from reclaimed wood in a visual language that references both the old sawmills that used to operate in and around the Great Smoky Mountains and the regenerative nature of nurse logs in the deep forest. In addition to being recycled, biodegradable and living, the sculpture asks a deeper question about the sustainability of humans on the planet.”

“Aesthetics and sustainability are the heart of this project,” said Denise Drury Homewood, executive director of WCU’s Fine Art Museum. “The artists will work with interdisciplinary teams of students to foster collaboration across the arts and sciences. During the residency, Tufts and the Camp Little Hope team will work with Great Smoky Mountains National Park educator Susan Sachs to bring interdisciplinary groups of students to the national park for an in-depth study of the flora and fauna of the region.”

During fall semester 2015, a committee of representatives from across the WCU community narrowed down a list of potential artists from 44 to one.

“I really have to say thank you to members of the artist selection committee: Lauren Bishop with the Office of Sustainability and Energy Management; Galen May, university architect; Jeremiah Haas with Base Camp Cullowhee, Morgan Kennedy and Matt Liddle from the School of Art and Design; and Greg McPherson from the Fine Art Museum,” Drury Homewood said.

For more information on the project, visit the website fineartmuseum.wcu.edu or contact Drury Homewood at ddrury@wcu.edu or 828-227-2550.

For more information about the Sustainable Energy Initiative, visit the website energy.wcu.edu or contact the Office of Sustainability and Energy Management at lbishop@wcu.edu or 828-227-3562.