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Franklin David Murphy, the late Chancellor of University of California at Los Angeles, once said that “art should be something you live with, not something you look at.” Claremont McKenna, in a surprise move towards celebrating public art, is embracing Murphy’s position.

Trustee & Alum George R. Roberts. Photo via Claremont McKenna College
Trustee & Alum George R. Roberts. Photo via Claremont McKenna College

Tonight (September 30) at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, the CMC Public Art Committee made a surprise announcement regarding two new sculptures that will soon be gracing CMC’s campus. Rather than announce the installments at the Board of Trustees dinner on October 1, the Public Art Commission decided to tell students and faculty tonight about alumnus George R. Roberts’s decision to underwrite two sculpture pieces.

The announcement came during dinner at a Gould Center for Humanistic Studies-sponsored panel discussion of public art and campus art and architecture. Roberts’s donation will consist of two pieces, the first of which may be installed as soon as May, preceding the Class of 2016’s graduation. Roberts, an art lover himself, has a personal collection that focuses on Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Willem de Kooning, Cy Twombly and Jasper Johns.

Ellsworth Kelly, “White Curve.” Photo: rocor/Flickr

The first piece will consist of two concentric circles of decommissioned park benches and streetlights from downtown Los Angeles, designed by the late Chris Burden (PO ’69), and will be placed outside of the new Roberts Pavilion — named for the same donor. For those of us who have visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Burden’s work is familiar; he is the artist behind the well-known collection of lampposts entitled Urban Light (pictured above).

The second piece will be an homage to a totem pole, sitting on the small quadrangle between Phillips Hall and Appleby Hall. This installation is by Ellsworth Kelly, best known for paintings displayed at the Museum of Modern Art as well as the Guggeinheim Museum, and will likely be on campus two years from now, in 2017.

Correction (10/1): An earlier version of this article referred to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art.