By Anne Cantrell MSU News Service
BOZEMAN – Granite Peak. Turner Mountain. Bridger Bowl. These are some of Montana’s prominent geographic features documented in a colored glass installation that has helped transform the Montana State University parking garage into an innovative art museum.
The installation, “Welcome,” by Tad Bradley, assistant teaching professor in MSU’s School of Architecture in the College of Arts and Architecture, appears on windows on the south side of the garage’s stairwell.
“Welcome” is comprised of 7-foot-tall glass panels of varying width. Together, the panels feature the names of Montana’s counties and county seats, the license plate number assigned to each county and the traditional names of Montana’s American Indian tribes. It also includes elevations—called out to scale—of some of the tallest mountains in Montana, the elevation of Montana ski resort summits and the lowest point in Montana, which is the bottom of the Mountain Consolidated Mine in Butte at 160 feet above sea level.
Three geometric shapes—which change from warm red and orange hues to cooler blues and purples—form the backbone of the installation.
Bradley said that he hopes his installation will help encourage people entering campus through the parking garage to become more acquainted with Montana.
“The parking garage is a very utilitarian structure. It is also a structure that many people visiting MSU will go to in order to park and take a tour of campus,” he said. “Because of this, I believe it is appropriate to take advantage of the opportunity of people moving through [the] space to invite them to become acquainted with the state.”
The geometric shapes cast colorful shadows in the stairwell, adding another dimension to the work.
“Small children that may not read or be interested in the information … can find wonder and beauty by the sunlight illuminating the colors and washing across the white walls, changing each level into a new experience,” Bradley said.
Bradley is an architectural designer who creates mixed-media sculptural installations. His installations on campus include a 25-panel fused glass installation on the second floor of Gaines Hall and a sculpture north of MSU’s Danforth Chapel. An architect who has worked in firms in Montana and Boston, Bradley also maintained a part-time job as an apprentice blacksmith while teaching full time in the MSU School of Architecture.
Bradley’s “Welcome” installation is just one part of the garage’s permanent public art initiative. To date, three other installations have been created.
This summer Matika Wilbur, a Seattle-based photographer from the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes, worked with nine MSU students to install more than a dozen photographs on the fourth floor of the parking garage. The photographs include portraits of Native Americans as well as photographs of hands. The installation’s centerpiece is a dramatic photograph of a woman’s eyes.
Noah Jackson, an MSU music education and music technology student from Fort Belknap, was one of the students who assisted Wilbur with the project. As part of their work, the students traveled with Wilbur to the Flathead Reservation, where they interviewed and photographed people from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Jackson’s grandmother, Rita Adams, is one of the people they interviewed, and it is her eyes that are featured in the installation’s centerpiece.
Jackson, who is an enrolled Salish, said he was honored to contribute to the project.
“I’m really proud of the work,” he said, adding that he hopes the art will help raise awareness of native culture.
When they returned, Wilbur and the students spent an intense week choosing, printing and installing the photographs.
Earlier in the summer, the Colombian graffiti muralist Ledania completed murals on the second level of the new parking structure. The murals seamlessly combine colors and themes from her native country with symbols and imagery from Montana and the Yellowstone region.
And in April, South American graffiti muralist Marina Zumi used more than 200 cans of spray paint to transform the first floor of the parking garage into a massive mural depicting the world of mathematics, cosmology and the spiritual dimensions of Montana.
MSU College of Arts and Architecture Dean Royce W. Smith said each of the college’s four schools—the School of Music, School of Art, School of Film and Photography and School of Architecture—will eventually have installations in the garage that will bring together sound, image and space.
For his part, Bradley said he hopes “Welcome” will help inspire a spirit of discovery.
“I hope this installation will inspire further inquiry into this state and allow people to feel welcome here,” he said. “It may be the first physical structure of MSU that some people may ever enter, and I feel it is essential that this moment and experience are special and memorable.”