Mead Hall: Beacon of Light

Art Student Installs Reflective Panels on Historic University Building

MADISON, NJ—From March 15 to 19, Drew University students walking past Mead Hall will notice a series of large reflective panels hanging from the portico over the 19th century mansion’s rear porch.  The panels are a site-specific work of art by senior Katharine Overgaard, who designed them to reflect sunlight to the south end of the Drew campus.  The exhibit, which Overgaard calls “Untitled (beacon),” is her capstone project for the Semester on Contemporary Art.  

“‘Untitled (beacon),’ is engineered to reflect the sunlight that shines daily from the south—sunlight that most foot traffic would likely otherwise fail to notice,” said Overgaard.  “The majority of students and community members on Drew’s campus travel from beyond S.W. Bowne Hall in a northerly direction toward the administrative and academic cluster of buildings located at the ‘front’ of campus.  Unfortunately, this commute limits the pedestrian population’s interaction with nature in a specific way; walking from a southern point to a northern point at nearly any time of the day means that the pedestrian is unable to enjoy the invigorating rays of sun that fall to the north.”

Overgaard hopes that her exhibit will garner a reaction from those who see it.  

“I hope members of the Drew community and visitors alike will form an opinion about the piece—either with regards to the way they interact with it, the way it appears to them, or what it may or may not mean—and allow that to be a common, shared experience,” she said.

Mead Hall, the site of “Untitled (beacon),” was constructed between 1833 and 1836.  It is currently home to the offices of the university president, provost and several members of the president’s cabinet.  Overgaard decided to use Mead as the site for her installation primarily because of its expansive rear portico, which faces nearly due south, and because of its central location on campus.

Otherwise a two-dimensional artist, Overgaard was inspired to create this three-dimensional piece by site-specific installation art that she viewed in the fall of 2009 and by the work of artist Ann Hamilton.  

“The idea that a certain space or location may be activated by a particular piece of artwork—be it an action or a physical installation piece—fascinates me,” she said.  “I hope that this installation opens doors and creates artistic possibilities for other artists at Drew.”

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Posted: March 16, 2010