A massive new interactive sculpture recently installed outside Tebeau Hall on the Oregon State University campus is the latest addition to the university’s collection of public art.
“Tulip for Tebeau” honors William Tebeau, the namesake for both the sculpture and for Tebeau Hall. Tebeau was the first African American male to graduate from Oregon State, and had a 36-year career as a civil engineer. His passion for engineering and teaching was the inspiration for the sculpture’s interactive elements.
Tebeau Hall, which was completed in 2014, is OSU’s newest residence hall, housing about 300 undergraduate students.
The 32-foot-tall kinetic sculpture is by Portland artist Pete Beeman, and has soaring steel legs and six curving, gold-tipped, petal-like fins. The design features a hand-turned crank that allows users to open and close the 20-foot tall petals at the top of the sculpture. It’s purposefully situated so that the crank is accessible to people of all mobility levels, and the structural elements – supports, beams, sprockets, and gearbox – are all laid bare for users to examine.
“We were looking for a local artist who could create an interactive piece that honored Tebeau’s career in engineering, while engaging the landscaping of the adjacent residence halls,” said Patrick Robinson, director of facilities, maintenance and construction for University Housing & Dining Services.
“Tulip for Tebeau” was commissioned through the Oregon Art Commission’s Percent for Art in Public Places, a program that requires all new state buildings with a budget of more than $100,000 to set aside at least 1 percent of the construction budget for public art.
The kinetic sculpture features more than four tons of stainless steel and is topped with half an ounce of gold leaf. Beeman and a construction crew installed it along S.W. 14th Street, between Adams and Washington Avenues on the east end of the OSU campus.
“We couldn’t be happier that our residents have the opportunity to live within proximity to hands-on, original artwork designed with students in mind,” Robinson said.
Oregon residents may recognize Beeman’s work from “Pod,” a kinetic sculpture on West Burnside Avenue in Portland. A Portland native, Beeman now splits his time between Portland and New York City. His work can be found in public installations across the U.S. and in Taiwan, and is often interactive, industrial and playful.