Sculpture moved back to its roots

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PUTNEY — Chuck Ginnever's abstract sculpture 4 the 5th (of Beethoven) has come home. Ginnever, now 87, was an Assistant Art Director when the campus housed Windham College. While on the faculty he was commissioned to create an outdoor sculpture by the Vermont State Council on the Arts in 1972, contingent on it being loaned to an institution. The aluminum sculpture has been residing at the Southern Vermont Arts Center for the last five decades. Two weeks ago it was dismantled at SVAC and reconstructed on the former Windham College campus, now Landmark College.

Ginnever is known for creating large outdoor sculptures found around the world, with many on his Westminster property, and 4 the 5th is no exception. A departure from his usual pieces, it is the only sculpture other than those on his property that is in Vermont. As is Ginnever's custom, the name of the sculpture is decided after its completion. Beethoven's recognizable four-note opening motif of Symphony No. 5 with three upper notes and one lower note corresponded well with the structure's three upright sections and one long horizontal section, hence the name: 4 the 5th (of Beethoven).

Born in San Mateo, Calif., in 1931, Ginnever had already established his place in the art world by the time he was named head of the Art Department at Windham College in the late 1960s. His stature in various abstract art movements of that period enabled him to invite fellow artists to create site-specific outdoor works on the campus that came to be known as "The Windham Show."

Ginnever left his teaching post in 1975, right around the same time that he received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and an individual artist's grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Since then, his work has been displayed in numerous solo exhibitions and remains part of the permanent collections for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the University of Houston, Texas, and the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, among others.

In 2007, the Vermont Arts Council honored Ginnever with its Walter Cerf Lifetime Achievement Award. He continues to make and exhibit new works on his farm in Westminster.

"With all of my work," Ginnever said, "you don't understand it until you move all around it."

Peter Eden PhD., president of Landmark College, is making a conscious effort to acquire more art for the campus. When he met Ginnever he broached the possibility of one Ginnever's pieces coming to the campus.

"I was the one who suggested to Peter to move the piece to the campus," said Ginnever, who was eager to see the installation come home since he lives here. "They wanted me to recommend a sculpture so I suggested Beethoven because it would look great and I'd get to see it."

Eden said that when he and members of the art advisory board considered the sculpture, "We loved the photos — when we saw it in person, we saw the magnificence of the scale." In addition, Eden loves to respect the history of the campus.

According to Eden, the SVAC has been great through the whole process and extremely gracious. He has been working with SVAC executive director, Elizabeth Paxson, to coordinate its move to Putney.

"We have enjoyed having 4 the 5th (of Beethoven) in our sculpture garden for many years and although we will miss the piece, we are happy that it has found a new home at Landmark College," said Paxson.

"This piece will be a tremendous addition to the college campus, as we continue to collect and display permanent and temporary works on our grounds and in our buildings," said Eden.

Originally, it was thought the sculpture would be moved in early spring. But the weather didn't cooperate and the grounds were too wet to support the heavy machinery needed.

To prepare for the sculpture's arrival the staff at Landmark College first had to decide where to put it. The art advisory board consisting of Derek Parker, John MacClaren, Humberto Rameriz and others drove around the campus' three levels, unanimously choosing a spot on the upper campus where it could be seen from the second level also. A 6-foot cement footing was poured six weeks ago, to prepare for the sculpture's arrival.

Finally, on Aug. 3, the pieces arrived and reconstruction began by More Specialized Art Transport and Logistics under the watchful eye of Ginnever, who oversaw the reconstruction of his piece once before when SVAC had to move it to another part of its campus a couple of decades ago. The installation took much longer than planned because of interruptions by several downpours of rain.

There are tentative plans for a reception to honor Ginnever and dedication of the 4 the 5th (of Beethoven) in an informal recognition of the piece, featuring Ginnever as a speaker, during the college's family weekend on Sept. 28. Stay tuned for further details.

Eden said, "Chuck is a brilliant and talented artist. We are so grateful to have one his pieces installed at Landmark College. Art adds complexity to a campus. We feel 4 the 5th (of Beethoven) will enrich the lives of our community members on a daily basis."

For more information about Ginnever's work, visit chuckginnever.com.

About Landmark College

Landmark College was the first institution of higher learning to pioneer college-level studies for students with dyslexia. Today, Landmark College is a global leader in integrated teaching methods for students with learning disabilities (including dyslexia), ADHD, executive function challenges, and autism). The College offers bachelor's and associate degrees, online dual enrollment for high schools, professional development credentials and training for educators and professionals, and summer programs for neurodiverse students. Students, faculty, and professionals from around the world are drawn to Landmark College for its innovative educational model, designed through research and practice to help all students become confident, empowered, and independently successful learners.

Cicely M. Eastman may be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 261.

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