Parts of A Whole: A Collaborative Sculpture at Swarthmore College

Finished Sculpture Installation in the stairwell window of Singer Hall.

It all started with an idea. Visiting Sculpture Professor, Erin Wheary, came to me in the Fall of 2020 with a desire to propose something big – something collaborative – to the College community. We are both sculpture artists, and like many during the year of 2020, were feeling the effects of being distanced from so much human interaction.

Digital Rendering from the Initial Proposal for Parts of a Whole.

Erin and I explored how we could get the community involved in a physical project, with so many folks remote and spread apart from one another. Our solution was to collect longitude and latitude coordinates from students, faculty, and staff, then engrave those coordinates onto laser cut hexagon shaped tiles that could slot together, and create iridescent clusters that hang from the ceiling. We wrote a proposal and created digital renderings using a combination of Autodesk Fusion 360 and Adobe Photoshop.

Laser cut florescent blue acrylic tiles.

With the support of our Provost, Sarah Willie-LeBreton, and Swarthmore College’s Art Committee, the funding was approved to purchase materials for the project. We received over 500 responses from the Swarthmore Community from all over the local region, cities such as Chicago, IL and Oakland, CA, and international cities such as Douala, Cameroon, and Shanghai, China. I spent many hours over the summer engraving and cutting the tiles out of blue florescent acrylic, using our Makerspace laser cutter.

Not only was the content of the sculpture collaborative, but the assembly as well! Members of the Swarthmore ITS department pitched in to put the acrylic tiles together, pre-installation.

Jacquie Tull standing on scaffolding holding part of the sculpture.

With the help of Bill Maguire and the Swarthmore College facilities team, we were able to choose a location that accentuated the high windows of Singer Hall while preventing any damage to the building. Special thanks to the facilities team for taking extra care to make the installation safe for me and my fear of heights!

Jacquie Tull leaning over scaffolding to lower parts of the sculpture.

The finished product showcases the input of our community and the collaborative spirit of Swarthmore College, while refracting light and changing appearance throughout the day.

View from stairwell, left.
View from second story mezzanine.
Close up of one cluster of the sculpture.

The sculpture exists as a reminder of our collective power in collaboration through challenging times. It was designed in modular clusters, so that if at some time in the future the college decided to deinstall it from its current location, clusters can be redistributed throughout different areas of campus, keeping the acrylic out of the landfill, and living on in new and flexible forms.

View from second floor stairwell.

Special thanks to Mike Jones, Director of the Language Center, Media Center, and Makerspace, and to the contributions of John Word, Language Center Technologist, and Jeremy Polk, Media Center Coordinator, for their documentation and assistance with installation. Also many thanks to my dedicated student technicians who work hard to support the Makerspace, and contributed to the installation. And of course, many thanks to the members of Swarthmore College that contributed their coordinates! Follow the project on Instagram @parts.whole.

Jacqueline Yvonne Tull is a sculpture artist based in Philadelphia. In addition to managing the Makerspace at Swarthmore College, she maintains an art practice out of her home studio, and is a member of Automat Collective, an artist-run gallery space in the Crane Arts building located on North American Street.

Erin Wheary is a sculpture artist who holds a Master of Fine Art at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and is currently managing an artist residency in France.