Taking It to the Streets
“Engineering design!” is the inspiring answer to the most frequent question Benjamin Fehl hears when community members view the sketches and model for the public artwork he has designed. The notquite-as-inspiring question he hears a little too often is: “How are you going to keep it from falling over?”
Fehl, an instructor in engineering design who holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in architecture and a master’s degree in fine arts from Penn State, will be breaking new ground in historic Milesburg, PA, in summer 2012 with a sculptural project called Things About the House. This project, which received first place in the 2011 Graduate Exhibition in the School of Visual Arts, is being partially funded with a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and will be constructed on the site of what’s left of an 1857 house across from the Milesburg Historic Museum. Although the house itself is beyond restoration (and much of it will be dismantled), components of the house—including its large hearth, which will be repurposed to provide a comfortable venue for community gatherings—will be incorporated into the work. The final project will be sixteen feet wide by sixteen feet tall and will include a concrete casting of the home’s weathered exterior. The ultimate visual result of this project will be a fusion of the historic with the contemporary.
lives. Drawing upon multiple disciplines—including art history, architecture theory, and community planning—the project will serve as both a semi-public gathering space for the community and a private space for individual contemplation about the meaning of home, community, and the intersection of public and private spaces. As board vice-president for the Milesburg Historic Museum, Fehl states that “there is a delicate balance between preserving the history of our community through objects that tell the story of our shared experience and the value found in opening our most precious objects—our homes—for a more profound exploration of that experience and uncovering layers of meaning.” The project has already brought together the planning office, the historic preservation community, and local residents of Milesburg, who have begun a dialogue about what home means to them. A series of community events has been planned to engage residents in the development of the casting of the façade for the final work. According to Graeme Sullivan, Director of the School of Visual Arts, “Benjamin Fehl’s Things about the House asks why art is important in a community. […] This long-term multidisciplinary project is a direct intervention into a personal and community living space that creatively explores many of the perceptions we have about ‘home.’ Where is home? Fehl probes what is behind the façades we construct through our memories of home and what it means to be going home, which is a journey we never stop taking. The private spaces framed by Benjamin’s house are places of quiet reflection and a public invitation to a fireside chat.”
—Christine Robinson More information about this project is available at www.benjaminfehl.com
Presentation model showing the proposed concrete facade and adjacent park. The goals of the project are multifaceted: to examine the meaning of the home through the memorialization of a historic house; to provide a space for reflection on the experience of home; and to call attention to the multiple ways site-specific public art can be significant in building a community and strengthening a neighborhood while emphasizing art’s inherent value in our daily
Study Drawings by Benjamin Fehl SPRING 2012 | SEDTAPP NEWS | 53
SEDTAP News Spring 2012 article covering Benjamin Fehl's The Crooked House Project