BLUEFIELD, Va. —
If you give him a ladder, he will come. If you give him a 100 ladders, he will build an art project in Bluefield, Va.
Charlie Brouwer, 67, from Floyd, Va., a well-known artist who specializes in contemporary art, will piece together a sculpture out of ladders on the campus of Bluefield College. The piece titled “Bluefield Rising Together” will be visible from College Drive.
According to Chris Shoemaker, director of marketing and public relations at Bluefield College, the plan is for the ladders to form two towers, representing the two Bluefields, connected by an archway through which viewers will be able to pass.
“The towers will also symbolize, like the school’s chapel steeple, the reaching for higher learning, understanding and enlightenment. The archway will represent community engagement and connectedness of the Bluefields — separate, but connected and rising together,” Shoemaker said.
Brouwer plans to make the structure 30 feet long and possibly 60 feet wide. One of his ways to engage the community in art is to ask them to get involved.
“This project is mostly about the ladders, loaned by individuals, families, schools, churches, businesses and organizations from all over the Greater Bluefield community,” Brouwer said. “They represent the way a community is made up of individual hopes and dreams connected to and supporting each other.”
The project will stand near the main entrance to Bluefield College on College Drive in view of the library, administration building, chapel and visual arts building. Heavy-duty cable ties will hold the ladders together and weatherproof Tyvek tags will be wired to each ladder identifying its lender.
The community is encouraged to loan ladders of all shapes, sizes and colors to the project. Ladders can be broken, used and new. Children’s play ladders and step-stools can also be used.
Brouwer said they have an elaborate method of registering ladders and descriptions.
“This is our ninth project,” he said. “We haven’t lost a ladder yet.”
A long-time host painter, Brouwer said he was standing on a ladder when he got the idea to start using ladders in sculptures.
“I liked the symbolism associated with ladders. It can go from individual achievement to spiritual transcending ...” he said.
Brouwer didn’t want to ask communities for money to begin a large-scale art project. So he decided to ask for ladders. As for Bluefield project, he hopes to receive as many functional ladders as possible.
Last month, Brouwer made his first trip to the two Bluefields, where he talked about the project with Walter Shroyer, chair of Bluefield College’s Department of Art and Design.
A few years ago, Shroyer and his wife Linda met Brouwer at his open house in Floyd, Va. Later, Shroyer looked up the artist on the Internet.
“I thought it would be a great thing for our area,” Shroyer said. “It is also a way to bring us together. I am excited.”
Shroyer said when he sees Brouwer’s work he is reminded of prayer and the spiritual side of life.
“I thought it would be a great fit for the campus,” he added.
The BC art professor is also happy the project will expose the community to contemporary art. So far, Shroyer has collected 20 ladders. His goal is have 100 ladders ready for Brouwer.
Ladders can be dropped off during the week of March 10-16 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Local residents, businesses, organizations and schools can take the ladders to the Cox Visual Arts Building on the lower southwest portion of campus. Pick-ups can also be arranged, Shroyer said.
Brouwer will begin work on the sculpture on Friday, March 14. The grand opening will be Sunday, March 16 at 5 p.m. Ladders will also be accepted on those days, as well as Saturday, March 15.
All ladders that are loaned can be picked up April 13 from noon to 5 p.m and April 14, 16 and 18 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., and April 15 and 17 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
The funding for “Bluefield Rising Together” has been provided by the Jane Poteet Light Fund for Art Studies through the Community Foundation of the Virginias, Inc., and the Fannie Kate and Betty Gardener Fund. For more information, visit the project web site at www.bluefieldrisingtogether.org or call Walter Shroyer at 276-326-4558.
In addition to the project, Brouwer will present a separate exhibit of artwork titled “Now I lay Me” through April 10. The display is open to the public in Lansdell Hall on the first floor, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
After the project, donated ladders will be taken to Habitat for Humanity and the Appalachia Service Project.