While the Nash Library was under construction, Mary Carol (MC) Gensheimer and Lori Steadman spent time visiting local art galleries and rummaging through the Gannon University archives in search of artwork to decorate the newly renovated building.
The artwork was then thoughtfully placed throughout its four floors as one of the finishing touches earlier this month.
According to Gensheimer, an assistant professor and co-director of the School of Communication and the Arts, the first floor is the unofficial “ceremonial” floor, and she and Steadman — director of the Schuster Gallery — wanted to choose a few pieces that highlighted Gannon’s history.
Along with a photo of Monsignor Wilfred J. Nash next to the front desk, two bronze busts of Archbishop John Mark Gannon can be found on opposite ends of the first floor. Gensheimer said the two busts, which are not identical, were previously stored in the archives and fit into the ceremonial floor as a way for students to familiarize themselves with the man the university is named after.
The first floor is not only for commemorative art, however. A few standouts include “Diverging Roads” by Lee Steadman, Lori’s husband, which was chosen for the first floor because of how well it went with the path-like pattern in the floor that joins the north and south ends of the campus, and “Peninsula Wetlands” by Herm Webber, chosen for the north entrance because of its proximity to Presque Isle.
To the left of the north entrance is the large mural “The Golden Knight.” The mural was mostly done by students, each given a square of wood with a piece of the roughly penciled-in outline of a knight mounted on a horse, painted individually and put together at the end.
“You can see some of the little differences, but that’s part of its charm,” Gensheimer said.
Down the hall, the “Our Lady of Wisdom” statue, one of the most prominent pieces of art featured in the entire building, greets guests at the south entrance.
The cast concrete statue stands at nearly 8 feet tall and was generously donated by Daemen College, where president Keith Taylor, Ph.D., served as a full-time professor from 1988 to 2005. Gensheimer said that the curved wall and sky blue backdrop felt like the perfect place to display the statue, which serves as an icon and represents what the library is all about.
“She’s kind of a patroness of the library,” Gensheimer said.
In addition to the statue, Daemen College also donated the hand-carved crucifix that hangs nearby, as well as the statue of St. Francis that can be found in the basement.
Gensheimer’s personal favorite piece can be found on the second floor above the blue study booths, called “The Pointers.”
The piece was done by Bob Mackie, a Broadway designer, and portrays The Pointer Sisters, a ‘70s R&B group famous for hits like “Jump (For My Love)” and “I’m So Excited.” Mackie was the group’s live-show costume designer and the artwork presents one of his designs. The piece was consciously placed near the theater and communication books.
Further down the hall in an open area above three individual study booths, the centerpiece of the floor can be found. “Stacks” is a painting by regional artist Tom Jackson that illustrates, as the title alludes to, a stack of books.
“We just fell in love with it,” Gensheimer said. “I just think it’s a really appropriate painting for a library.”
Gensheimer said that a major consideration when choosing locations for the artwork was the south and west light that shines for extended periods of time in certain areas of the library. She said that since high-quality watercolors and acrylics can fade over time, they needed to be placed strategically in order to preserve them.
Because the third floor experiences the harshest sunlight in the evening, ceramic pieces “Visual Dance” and “Free Flight Pattern” by local artist Tom Huber were chosen as the centerpieces of its study area due to their durability.
“These pieces kind of sing to one another and dance together,” Gensheimer said. “They work really well when they sit across from each other.”
Also found on the third floor is “Presentation Piece,” an enamel-on-metal piece that was designed for the original Nash Library Founder’s Room by Carl Sundberg, a well-known regional artist, and “Last Supper,” a large fabric portrait by the Rev. Peter Gray, who also did the Pantocrator, the large mosaic portrait of Jesus in the Palumbo Academic Center.
Gensheimer said that the basement is where she and Steadman were allowed to have a little bit more fun with their artwork selection, as evidenced by the concert posters across the hall from the STEM center as well as the Batman portrait near the archives.
The two psychedelic rock concert posters, one from a 1968 Santana show and the other from a 1979 music festival featuring The Band and Muddy Waters among others, are silk screen prints and were purchased at the Bayfront Gallery this past summer. Gensheimer says she hopes to add similar collectable concert pieces until the rest of the hallway wall is filled.
Nearby, the “15-Star Flag” hangs near a large study space by the courtyard. The flag was presented to Joseph E. Sinnott, an alumnus of Gannon and mayor of Erie from 2006 to 2017, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie in 2013. The flag hung in his office until he donated it to the Nash Library in early January.
Other than “Maine Marina” by Herman Webber, an inkjet-printed reproduction found on the first floor, all of the artwork in the Nash is original. Because there’s still so much wall space to fill, Gensheimer said she is excited to keep adding artwork to the library for years to come.
“If SGA could buy a piece of art at the end of the year each year, that would be wonderful,” Gensheimer said.