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August 09, 2019

Philip Johnson’s Turning Point Sculpture and Turning Point Garden

The Turning Point sculpture was designed by world-renowned architect Philip Johnson in 1996. It was originally located on Bellflower Road near Guilford House. Turning Point was created specifically for the John and Mildred Putnam Sculpture Collection, which was established as a permanent endowment at CWRU by Mildred Andrews Putnam in 1981 for the acquisition of sculptures. The goal of the Putnam Collection is to enrich the visual and educational environment of the CWRU campus and of University Circle by developing awareness and understanding of the variety and vitality of the work of regional artists.

Turning Point sculpture in its original location on Bellflower Road near Guilford House

Turning Point is the first sculpture designed by Philip Johnson, a Cleveland native, who referred to the work as “a modern Stonehenge.” It is composed of five, putty-colored angled columns that flare as they rise 17 to 20 feet above a blue, circular concrete base about 30 feet in diameter. The columns are made of molded Douglas fir panels coated with painted fiberglass, and are illuminated with fiber-optic lighting. The Turning Point sculpture was considered by art critics to be a daring, modern addition to architecture on campus. CWRU art history professor Harvey Buchanan was quoted in the 06/20/1997 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education as saying that the sculpture “symbolizes a new spirit in the university as it approaches the next century.” The sculpture was dedicated on the CWRU campus in June 1997.

The Turning Point sculpture was originally placed over a key campus pathway that joins the two halves of Case Western Reserve University: the former campuses of Western Reserve University and the Case Institute of Technology. However, beginning with the construction of the Tinkham Veale University Center in 2011, the Turning Point sculpture was disassembled to make room on Bellflower Road for the new building. In 2019, it was reinstalled across the street from the Tinkahm Veale University Center, near the Weatherhead School of Management and East Bell Commons, on Bellflower Road.

In 2000, Turning Point Garden was installed between Guilford House and the Mather Dance Center on Bellflower Road, near the Turning Point sculpture before the sculpture was relocated. It remained undisturbed by the construction of the Tinkham Veale University Center, and currently rests in the elbow on the east side of the building. The four-piece sculpture garden was created as a compliment to the Turning Point sculpture, and was also produced as part of the John and Mildred Putnam Sculpture Collection. Philip Johnson designed Turning Point Garden as a single, integrated space to serve as a gathering place with informal seating arrangements for study, performances, and outdoor classes.

Students in the Turning Point Garden amphitheater, 2003

The largest piece in the garden is an open, bowl-like amphitheater, with bench seating for approximately 50 people. Terraced landscaping near the amphitheater provides additional seating for approximately 30 people. Next to the amphitheater is a tube-shaped sculpture that was created to mask the electrical and lighting equipment for the amphitheater, and which can also serve as a small dressing room or entrance area for performers. Turning Point Garden also includes a large, curved sculpture that is composed of several panels made out of a heavy plastic mesh. The interior provides an additional meeting space, and consists of an informal array of benches and tables. Both Turning Point Garden and the Turning Point sculpture stand out as unique examples of art and architecture on campus.

Written by Julia Teran

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August 05, 2019

University Life in Song: Alma Maters

An alma mater is the official song or hymn for a school or university. In contrast to school “fight” or marching songs, alma maters traditionally have a reflective or affectionate tone and are played or sung as a way to honor the institution. The lyrics of these songs often foster a sense of identity and connection through mention of hallmarks of life at the institution.

Examples of occasions when an alma mater is performed may include openings of sporting events following the national anthem, inaugurations, commencements, or other official ceremonies. As a sign of respect, when an alma mater is played, it is expected that the audience should stand and uncover their heads. The music of an alma mater may be an original composition or set to the melody of familiar hymns or songs.

Given the various schools and colleges that eventually came to comprise Case Western Reserve University, a variety of alma maters are represented in the University Archives, including those of Cleveland College, Case School of Applied Science, Western Reserve University, Flora Stone Mather College for Women, and the Western Reserve University Library School, as well as many other songs and cheers. The songs exhibit both a sense of loyalty to and pride in their institutions, as well as hints of the values and social context of the time.

In a letter dated, February 13, 1935, the director of Cleveland College, A.C. Ellis expressed his desire that a song, “express the unique characteristics of Cleveland College . . .” including it place amidst the “. . . clamor of public life.” Dr. Frederick H. Adler responded with a song that includes this verse: “From lightning flash of rod on steel, And whirling spokes of giant wheel, From clanging yards where motors roar, And dashing waves on Erie’s shore”.

Western Reserve College submitted four songs to the 1882, American College Song Book, including, “Time for All Things,” “College Song,” “Our Western Reserve,” and “Memories of W.R.U.” “Our Western Reserve” was also known as “Our Fair Alma Mater.”

The Student Council of the Flora Stone Mather College for Women adopted an alma mater in 1945. It was written by Ann Gaither ’44 for the sophomore stunt in 1941. By 1958 the song was “musically too hard to sing, and the words out of date” according to the lyricist, Leslie McAney and composer Marcia King who created this replacement.

There was a need for a new alma mater upon the federation of Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University to provide a song that would unite the experiences of both institutions. Chancellor John S. Millis announced the results of a contest to select a new alma mater on March 29, 1968. Barbara Denison wrote the lyrics and Jerry Pietenpol composed the music. Both were University employees and Ms. Denison was also an alumna. About thirty years later an “updated” version was called for in 1998. The result was Scott Miller’s, “Shine On, Case Western Reserve.”

Perusal of student newspapers reveals that alma maters may have held varying levels of interest among different segments of the campus population over time, ranging from enthusiasm to disdain. Despite this range of interest, song remains a traditional and unique way to unite and honor the university and its constituents.

Written by Christine Liebson

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