On a mission to understand Penn's public works through their histories, influences and rumors, Street writers explore the meaning of art (and life)

"Split Button"

The "Split Button," constructed by Claes Oldenburg in June of 1981 located in front of Van Pelt library, has become a favorite (and contentious) part of Penn's folklore. Although myth-happy Penn students and administrators (see any campus tour) have attributed the split to a gluttonous Ben Franklin (the broken button allegedly popped off his jacket after a generous meal), Oldenburg actually intended for the split to represent the Schuylkill, dividing the button into William Penn's original Philadelphia squares.

But for many Penn students, the split simply allows for more Penn debauchery -- by day, the button is a toy for alumni's kids; by night, a place to make more.

-- Carly Brush


Bloody tampons are public art? Yes. Alexander Lieberman's infamous sculpture located on 39th and Locust -- that some politely call "lipstick-like" -- is actually not a giant representation of the epic battle waged eons ago by rival feminine hygiene conglomerates. Rather, the 45-foot high, red steel sculpture, designed in 1974, is titled "Covenant." This seems appropriate, given that it was erected in agreement with a Philadelphia ordinance that requires 1% of the budget of city-assisted construction jobs to be used towards art. Touche.

-- Kerry Golds

"Plateau 2005 "

Last semester, you probably witnessed the construction of Andrea Blum's modern art installation as you looked out the window of Greek Lady. On 40th Street, between Locust and Walnut, you will find this 10-foot high, 160-foot long, 15-foot wide steel and concrete tour-de-force. Its name: "Plateau 2005." Blum's French influences are quite clear, as the installation looks somewhat like a melted-down guillotine.

Blum envisioned the installation -- metal platforms arranged like benches -- to become a meeting place for residents of the West Philadelphia community. And it's only a matter of time before the eclectic 40th street crowd converges to give life to this piece of public art -- or at least grind their skates on it. For now, watch out for errant frisbees, and enjoy a lovely (town- gown-united!) sunset over West Philadelphia.

For more on campus art, see www.34st.com.

-- Stephen Morse


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