In conceptualizing and building the Furman Humanities Center, Director Michele Speitz and her board of directors have confronted a long list of decisions. From mission to goals to programming, the choices have been numerous and not always easy.
This one was.
When Speitz learned about an opportunity for the Humanities Center and Furman to sponsor one of the installations in the “Wings of the City” public art exhibit to arrive in downtown Greenville, South Carolina, in April, she jumped on it.
“At an institution like Furman, we would want to support those intersections between the arts and the humanities, and between the sciences and culture — not just within the university’s bounds but within the community,” she said. “We just won the Carnegie award for community engagement, so we are in the top tier of universities that strive to do this.”
This particular public art exhibit – and the specific sculpture Furman is sponsoring, titled “El Tiempo” – is especially compelling and a perfect match for the Humanities Center’s mission to support diversity and inclusion. Created by world-renowned Mexican sculptor Jorge Marín, “Wings of the City” has never been on display in a community east of the Mississippi River before.
The collection of nine bronze sculptures will be installed in Falls Park and on the Peace Center campus in April and will remain in Greenville until October.
According to Adela Mendoza, executive director of the Hispanic Alliance SC, the collection promotes a community-wide dialogue and offers a bridge to Mexican culture.
“’Wings of the City’ highlights the importance of migration and the cultural exchange that enriches societies,” Mendoza said in a news release from the City of Greenville. “This world-class exhibition celebrates the global spirit of the Upstate — symbolizing human connection across distance, and the role of art as a universal language.”
The city of Greenville and the Hispanic Alliance of SC collaborated to bring “Wings of the City” to Greenville. Marín’s work has been exhibited in museums in Europe, Asia and North and South America. Alas de México, the iconic sculpture from the “Wings of the City” collection, is on permanent display in 13 cities on three continents. Previously, the “Wings of the City” installation has been on display in cities in Texas, Colorado and California. The sculptures are expected to draw visitors from across the region.
“Now more than ever, it is important to be able to see all our community members holistically,” Speitz said. “This is an opportunity to be front and center in one of our most prized public spaces to see ourselves through these sculptures from Mexico. This art will come here and will have such a big impact because it will remind us of our shared humanity.”
Speitz selected “El Tiempo” specifically because of how it resonates with the Humanities Center. The artist’s description of “El Tiempo” says in part: “The composition, modeled in Classical proportions, reminds us of archeological ruins; broken objects that wait for us to tell the story behind them.”
“So much of the work of humanities,” Speitz said, “is exploring narratives and stories. And often we don’t yet have all the stories that are out there and we have to do the hard work of diving into the archives or working with communities to recover stories not yet told. So when I read about this sculpture, the light bulb went off.”
Speitz said a number of opportunities to engage Furman students through various courses with the exhibit are under consideration for the upcoming fall.