The Grand Illumination celebrates installation of sculptures on JMU campus

jmuThe College of Visual and Performing Arts at James Madison University will celebrate the sculptures of internationally-acclaimed Japanese artist Michio Ihara as well as JMU alumnus and New York-based architect Edwin Baruch.

The Grand Illumination ceremony is set for Friday, Oct. 1 from 5-6 p.m. on JMU’s Duke Lawn. Ihara’s Untitled is installed in the Duke Hall Sculpture Garden and Baruch’s Light Pavilion is installed on the Duke Lawn.

This opening reception for the sculptures will include remarks by Graham Lucks, studio technician for Ihara; Baruch and fellow alumnus Michael Draeger, fabricator of Light Pavilion; Dr. Heather Coltman, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs; and Rubén Graciani, dean of the CVPA and professor of dance. An art walk spearheaded by Arts Council of the Valley to its location in Harrisonburg for First Fridays Downtown will take place at 6 pm immediately following the reception from Duke Hall.

“We’re excited to bring sculpture back to the Duke Hall quad,” says Dr. Wren River Stevens, associate dean of the CVPA and professor of art history in the JMU School of Art, Design and Art History. Dr. Stevens served as director of JMU’s Madison Art Collection from 2003–2019, during which time Stephen Albright donated Ihara’s Untitled to the MAC. Stephen acquired the free-standing, stainless-steel sculpture featuring cubes that turn with the wind from his father Don, who commissioned his friend Ihara to create the piece. The sculpture was completed in 2011 and became permanent public art on the JMU campus in July 2021. “I’m delighted to see the sculpture installed at JMU,” shares Don. “Michio’s work is beautiful and fun to watch. I like it anywhere and everywhere.”

Baruch studied industrial design at JMU and graduated in 2013. After earning a master’s in architecture at Virginia Tech in 2017, Baruch landed a job as an architect on the Georgetown Waterfront in D.C., where he became interested in the relationship between contemporary and historic architecture. Inspired by D.C.’s “beautiful memorials and monuments” as well as light installations throughout Georgetown, Baruch came up with an idea for a sculpture of his own. What started out as loose sketches morphed into a fully developed concept and approach to design and materials, a process that took two years.

During this development period, Baruch asked Draeger to join the project as fabricator. Draeger also studied industrial design at JMU and graduated in 2013; the two were former classmates. “I was familiar with Mike’s craftmanship and work and knew I could trust his attention to detail.” Draeger, a studio technician at the College of William and Mary, accepted Baruch’s invitation to work on the project. A lighting designer and structural engineer were also brought on board to build the sculptural light installation.

In 2020, Baruch submitted a proposal for the project to the annual Georgetown GLOW, “the region’s only curated exhibition of public light art installations.” Baruch was notified that he was a finalist and could build his Light Pavilion on the Georgetown Waterfront, where it was installed for three months before coming to JMU for three years in July 2021. The installation at JMU came about after a conversation between Baruch and Bill Tate, professor of architectural and industrial design, who taught both Baruch and Draeger. An exhibition of Baruch’s work, featuring architecture models, drawings and process renderings from Light Pavilion as well as other projects, will be on display from October 1–31 in the Grace Street Crit Space in Duke Hall.

The Grand Illumination ceremony will also include an appearance by the JMU Marching Royal Dukes as well as a dance choreographed by Graciani featuring JMU dance students. The dance will premiere in memory of the late Dr. Earlynn J. Miller. Dr. Miller began a 30-year career as a full-time dance faculty member at JMU in 1969. Her hiring inaugurated a dance program with a minor and major and a department of full-time faculty. Dr. Miller retired with a faculty emerita status in 1999.

Admission to The Grand Illumination is free and open to the public. Parking is available at JMU’s Mason Street Deck. The Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art in Duke Hall and The little Gallery Underground in the lower level of the Music Building will be open before and after the ceremony. Admission to Baruch’s architectural exhibition is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 am–5 pm at the Grace Street Crit Space, located just inside the Grace Street entrance in Duke Hall. Parking is available at the Mason Street Deck.


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