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Tiger Spot: University documents show continuous problems

Although once referred to as a “campus icon”, the mosaic could soon be campus history.

Feb. 26, 2008

This article cites documents obtained under the Missouri Sunshine Law. These documents are available here (1.29MB, PDF).

Although it was once referred to as a “campus icon” in a letter from College of Arts and Science Dean Richard Schwartz, the deteriorating Tiger Spot glass mosaic could soon be campus history.

The spot has been covered with a tarp since last August, but a new design has been created to inhabit the area where the spot is now.

Missouri Students Association President Jim Kelley and Vice President Chelsea Johnson met with Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs Jackie Jones in January to discuss the spot, Kelley said.

He said Jones showed them a design mock-up of a large, square wall bearing the university’s emblem that would replace the spot. Landscaping elements would be incorporated around the wall, Kelley said.

MU Libraries Director Jim Cogswell must approve the design before any other steps can be taken, Kelley said. MSA Senate Speaker Jonathan Mays said he has contacted Cogswell via e-mail and expects he will hear back from him this week.

Funding would also have to be secured for the creation of the new artwork. Private donors Joe and Linda Warden funded the mosaic, but Kelley said he didn’t think there was any funding set aside for the new structure.

The spot has been a controversial university landmark since its construction started outside the north entrance of Ellis Library in 1999. At first widely anticipated, the spot is now a source of contention among many administrators and an eyesore to many students, with two facebook.com groups dedicated to its removal.

Chancellor Brady Deaton also called for its removal in a written statement in July 2006. MSA and the Residence Halls Association also passed legislation in November 2006 requesting its removal.

Tiger Spot is made out of 300,000 1.5- by 1-centimeter Italian tiles. Each tile is about the size of a fingernail, and the entire mosaic totals more than 700 square feet.

In a previous Maneater report, artist Paul Jackson said he chose the Italian smalti tiles because of their longevity.

“We are going to use smalti, which has been said to last over 100 years,” Jackson said.

After three years of construction, Jackson unveiled the spot to a crowd of 300 students and community members on Oct. 12, 2001. In a previous Maneater report, Nancy Moen, College of Arts and Science spokeswoman, estimated the project’s worth to be more than $1 million.

In a speech at the mosaic’s unveiling, Jackson said he was most proud of the way the community helped with the artwork.

“The community came together for this,” Jackson said. “We’ve seen kids and adults get involved in putting it together, and we’ve seen, finally, art take the forefront for once.”

Nearly one year later after its unveiling, MU Campus Facilities completed an $11,000 drainage system under Lowry Mall to draw water away from the spot.

Between June and October 2002, Schwartz sent two letters to Jackson praising him for his work and updating him of the drainage system’s progress.

In a June 18, 2002, letter, Schwartz wrote the College of Arts and Science remains “proud to be involved with this meritorious project and support your (Jackson’s) efforts whole-heartedly.” But by October 2002, there were 10 separate damaged areas of Tiger Spot in need of repair.

In a Dec. 4, 2002, letter to Jackson, Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Jackie Jones reaffirmed MU’s commitment to the restoration of the spot but also mentioned the possibility of having the mosaic removed. In January 2003, MU hired independent consulting company Miotto Mosaics to meet with Jackson and study the spot.

One week after his visit, Steve Miotto submitted a two-page initial report on what caused the damage to the mosaic.

He cited Jackson’s “unorthodox” methods in making the spot as a possible contributor to “the failure of the mosaic.”

Jackson used dry ice and water to flash freeze individual sections of the mosaic. After speaking to the glass manufacturer, Miotto said water could have expanded in the joints between tiles when the sections were frozen, weakening the glass.

Miotto also said the tiles Jackson used were too thin, the lack of expansion joints on the outside of the mosaic and the process of hand-patching sections of the mosaic together contributed to the spot’s decline.

“I cannot say if the mosaic can be saved and at what cost,” Miotto concluded in his report. “In my judgment I do believe there will continue to be problems with this mosaic, and it will require a great deal of maintenance throughout the years.”

Joe Warden responded to the Miotto report by offering his own solution to the problems plaguing Tiger Spot in its first years of life. In his letter, Warden said the weakened glass was not due to Jackson’s process of freezing the glass, but instead because of the amount of pigment in each tile. Also, Warden said Jackson would not participate in anything other than the repair at the current venue.

“If the University were to decide to recreate ‘Spot’ at a new location using an installer it would be necessary to obtain Paul Jackson’s permission so as not to violate his copyright,” Warden said in the letter.

If Cogswell approves the most recent design for the spot site, Kelley said the next step was to arrange a meeting between interested students, administrators and Jackson to get permission from the artist to remove the spot.

According to former MSA President Rachel Anderson’s notes from an October 2007 meeting about Tiger Spot, a federal statute protects the public art as intellectual property. Kelley provided the notes, which were left in his office.

Anderson’s meeting notes also stated MU attempted to negotiate with the artist by offering him financial compensation as well as an opportunity to participate in the new design.

According to her notes, Jackson turned down MU’s offer because he wanted more money and control. But well-known copyright law expert William Patry cited an exception to the copyright law when art is on property not owned by the artist in his seven-volume treatise on copyright.

His chapter on visual arts rights said the goal of the protection is to preserve artwork as it is, not where it is, despite Warden’s belief that it would violate Jackson’s intellectual property rights.

“There is, in short, no right under VARA (the Visual Arts Rights Act) requiring a work of art to remain at the site of its original installation,” Patry said in his treatise.

But in two letters sent in March 2003, Jones updated the Wardens and Jackson on MU’s decision to pursue restoration of the spot at its current site.

In May 14, 2003, the university installed more than 300 donor bricks around the perimeter of the spot. Originally intended to help stabilize any movement within the mosaic after their installation, Jackson contacted Campus Facilities Associate Director Phil Shocklee requesting the bricks be removed to complete his repairs.

In e-mails exchanged in May 2003, Shocklee and Mike Kateman, executive director of arts and development for the Reynolds Alumni Center, discussed the possibility of removing the bricks.

The bricks were installed permanently and are “stuck down,” Shocklee said in the e-mail.

Kateman said to remove the bricks would be a “fiscal and public relations diaster.”

A new artist hired by the university, Tom Edwards, made the last repairs on the spot in September 2007. In October 2007, Mays contacted Jackson to find out if any progress had been made in negotiations with the mosaic. In an e-mail to Mays, Jackson said he had not heard from the university in six months.

Jackson declined to comment. Jones, Cogswell and Shocklee could not be reached for comment.

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