East Campus neighborhood commissions local artist to create sculptures

Artist Don Asbee was commissioned to create gateway sculptures that represented the diversity of East Campus and its ties to the University of Missouri.

East Campus has found a new way to represent itself through Hartsburg artist Don Asbee and his sculptures.

The neighborhood commissioned Asbee to create something which would show the mixed community of East Campus and its ties to the MU, with many students, graduates and faculty members living in the area.

“We wanted to come up with a design that had a timeless quality, that looked like it may have been made 100 years ago or so,” Asbee said. “Since I wanted to create an icon for the neighborhood, not just any old sculpture would do. I wanted to keep it simple enough so that you could identify it as East Campus so I got pretty literal with the design.”

The four gateway sculptures are C’s to represent campus and then a quill intersecting to create an E, representing “east.”

“It was the quill I wanted to signify the knowledge base of the university and its ties to that institution,” Asbee said.

Residents of East Campus agree the community is tied very closely to MU.

“East Campus is deeply rooted in the Mizzou community and the design itself, I think, shows that,” resident Anne Case-Halferty said.“The feather quill is an old symbol of academia — and education in general — which are important values to the neighborhood and the residents who live there.”

The first of the sculptures, located on Cliff Drive and South Ann Street, was unveiled Sunday. The second was installed Monday on William Street and Bouchelle Avenue and the third and fourth were installed Tuesday on University and College avenues.

“I just got a lot of smiles on Saturday when I was putting the first one up and Sunday, after I installed it on Saturday afternoon we had a neighborhood unveiling for most of the people that hadn’t seen it yet, except in concept drawings,” Asbee said. “People were very happy, it was very gratifying. I heard comments like ‘it’s a timeless design’ and that was what I was going for.”

The sculptures unify the community, Case-Halferty said.

“I think the sculptures affect the neighborhood by raising awareness of the fact that East Campus is, in fact, a neighborhood,” Case-Halferty said. “The sculptures show that you are entering a recognized and celebrated neighborhood, not just a random collection of houses, neighborhoods and student rental properties.”

Asbee used a metalworking method called hot forging. The metal used is heated to a desired temperature and then worked upon.

“When (the steel) is heated up to around 2,000 degrees, it becomes very malleable, so most of the technique that went into it involved hammering and taking raw steel in standard shapes and forming it by squishing it with the hammer,” Asbee said. “You’re forming it like you could clay, but you can only do it when it’s hot enough.”

Asbee said the design took about a month to come up with, and underwent some minor adjustments. An original design was slightly more angular.

“Even though those icons are pretty high up in the air, (the city) wanted to make sure no one was going to cut themselves on it, so I rounded some corners here and there,” Asbee said.

East Campus is different than most communities and the sculptures help portray that, Case-Halferty said.

“I do think that that students and Columbia residents often forget that East Campus is a very old and unique neighborhood,” Case-Halferty said. “But perhaps more importantly, it raises awareness and reminds others that East Campus is a neighborhood where individuals live out their lives and raise their families, not just where students rent an apartment for one or two semesters.”

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