Victoria Sancho Lobis, director of the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College and associate professor of art history, is teaching a course motivated by these questions: What purpose do public monuments serve? What distinctions can we draw between public monuments and public art? Which values can and should motivate a commission for public art or public monuments?
Lobis was inspired by the College’s recent site-specific sculpture commission, “Imbue” by Alison Saar, now permanently installed in the northwest corner of the Benton’s courtyard. At the same time, she and the museum staff have been reflecting on recent removal or defacement of monuments representing individuals active in the slave trade, the Confederate forces or in groups actively involved in the suppression of Indigenous communities. The museum staff continues to think about how monuments and publicly visible works contribute to dynamics of power.
Last year, Lobis worked with students remotely to research works of public art on campus. “There are quite a few, many of which are probably overlooked on a day-to-day basis,” she says. Students in the course will discuss works of public art and public monuments located both on the campuses of The Claremont Colleges and in the adjacent Claremont Village.
“I am eager to learn from first-year students how they interact with public art, and more specifically, how they perceive the works that are installed across campus, which include José Clemente Orozco’s Prometheus mural in Frary Dining Hall and James Turrell’s Skyspace in the science quad,” Lobis says. As an added benefit during the continuing pandemic, the course will provide many good reasons to hold class outdoors.