Breaking Down “Building Up”

New Jersey law stipulates that buildings constructed with public funds can set aside up to one and one-half percent of the estimated construction costs toward public art installations. While no public funds were used for the Education Building—TCNJ has not received public funding for any of the facilities it has constructed on campus since the 1980s—the College has a policy, similar to the New Jersey statute, of including a fine arts installation with each new capital project.

Beside the main entrance to the Education Building stands Building Up, a 22-foot-tall sculpture that was commissioned as the public art accompaniment to the new facility. The artist, Tom Nussbaum, is known for a variety of work—including drawings, paper cuts, prints, sculpture, children’s books, and functional design objects—and has created more than 30 site-specific commissions. Of the latter, Nussbaum said, “One of the goals in my public projects is to create artwork that has an immediate impact for the casual viewer, but also contains layers of complexity and meaning that are rewarding to those who work and live with it every day.”

Building Up was created in this vein. Taken as a whole, the sculpture allegorically tells the story of TCNJ students, faculty, and staff working together to build the structure of a good education. Some of the individual sections have a symbolic meaning as well (see graphic below).

Because the School of Education receives a number of visitors with physical or intellectual disabilities, Nussbaum incorporated visual, tactile, and sound elements that make the sculpture meaningful and accessible to everyone. The result is that Building Up needs to be seen—and heard, and interacted with—to be truly appreciated. Readers are encouraged to visit the installation the next time they’re on campus.

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