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Arts / Entertainment

Art project beautifies campus while creating culturally inviting spaces

May 25, 2012

A new initiative within the College of Applied Human Sciences called “Our Spaces” aims to infuse the College environment with more culturally welcoming and diverse images, while simultaneously adding interest and beauty to our College offices.

<em>Salmon Chief,</em> a painting donated by Peter Jacobs, emeritus professor and chair of the Department of Art, adorns the wall in the CAHS Dean's Office in the Gibbons Building as part of the Our Spaces initiative.“We are excited about using our environment to better communicate our values around diversity and inclusion,” said Victoria Keller (’79, ‘88), a double-alumna of the College who has worked at CSU for more than 19 years and who recently joined the CAHS staff.

Art project is expanding

The CAHS Diversity Committee launched the Our Spaces project, which aims to use culturally relevant art to fill the halls and walls of CAHS buildings. It began with the Dean’s Office, is currently expanding to Occupational Therapy, and will eventually be implemented in other departments and buildings within the College.

So far, the project has received support and art loans from several donors, including emeritus faculty. Peter Jacobs, emeritus professor and chair of the Department of Art at CSU, loaned one of his paintings which now adorns the wall in the CAHS Dean’s Office in the Gibbons Building on the Oval.

Jacobs came to CSU in 1976 to assume leadership of the art department. Although he retired in 2008, he remains actively involved in CSU as a university mediator and as advisor to the CSU women’s hockey club.

Salmon Chief  reflects traditions

Jacobs’ main medium is sculpture, and his painting Salmon Chief, with its sculptural relief elements in the depicted fish and background, reflects this influence. Jacobs taught Native American art and culture as well as sculpture, and the subject of his painting reflects the traditions of the native peoples of the Northwest.

“The salmon is a metaphor for the cycle of life in native culture,” he says. “When the first salmon of the season was caught, it was treated like a visiting chief, honored by wrapping it in traditional adornments of the tribe. The thinking was if you honored the first salmon like a visiting chief, they would keep coming.”

Jacobs’ depiction of Salmon Chief shows the fish wrapped in a brightly colored button blanket. He explains that button blankets were made out of trade wool and embellished with mother-of-pearl buttons. The figures and decorations on the blankets represent various clans. Chiefs and people of importance would wear button blankets on special occasions and to ceremonies in tribes all up and down the Northwest coast.

More donated artwork

Jack Curfman, emeritus professor of interior design in the College, also donated prints and posters from his personal art collection to the project. One hanging in the Dean’s Office features an African mask titled Bobo Mask by artist Nathaniel Bustion, who attended CSU from 1963-67.

Alumna Kay Edwards (’60, ’79), owner of a local business, The Light Center, with her husband Larry, lent the textile and fibers piece titled Drumbeat of Africa by artist Marianne Childress which now hangs in the Dean’s Office as well.

Our Spaces is getting an enthusiastic response from students. The CAHS Deans Leadership Council members wrote a project endorsement that is posted alongside each art piece.

Occupational Therapy students are participating by submitting and selecting photographic art for the OT building that reflects the department mission. Mary Khetani, member of the College’s Diversity Committee, is spearheading the project in OT.

Our acknowledgements also go out to the Native American Cultural Center and the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center at CSU for the donation of several posters.

Culturally inviting spaces

“The idea is to intentionally communicate our values. Creating culturally inviting spaces makes a welcoming statement to people from diverse backgrounds,” Keller said. “Starting with a blank canvas of bare walls, we have great opportunity to adapt our spaces to reflect our values, our disciplines, and the diversity that is at the heart of our College.”

Thank you to all who have supported the Our Spaces project in the College. For more information on donating or loaning art to the College of Applied Human Sciences, contact Victoria Keller,, (970) 491-7340.

Contact: Victoria Keller
Phone: (970) 491-7340