at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre
The Learning Centre is about inspiring a sense of wonder – for learning, for research, for the beautiful spaces that invite users to study, contemplate, socialize and relax.
Art also inspires, and the works on display inside the Learning Centre are no exception. Here, we profile three artists and their pieces that illuminate the building and make it a truly special site.
In 2004, Dr. Irving K. Barber and his wife Jean attended an exhibition of glass works held by the Architectural Institute of British Columbia. There, they discovered the spectacular artistry of Vancouver’s Jeff Burnette and John Nutter. They were so impressed that they ended up commissioning both artists to create their dazzling installations.
“These pieces will add strength to the purpose of what the Learning Centre intends to accomplish over time, from one generation of students to the next,” says Dr. Barber, commenting on the artistic legacy that helps define the building.
Jeff Burnette, Southeast Stairwell – Belle Verre
Two hundred blown glass plates form a multi-coloured beacon in the southeast stairwell, drawing people into the building to marvel at the glowing spectacle. This exceptional installation, which reaches a height of 60 feet, took nearly four months to complete and three days to install.
Were there any particular challenges involved with such an ambitious project? “I sent my girlfriend up the scaffolding because I’m afraid of heights!” admits Burnette, who owns his own glass-blowing facility, called Joe Blow Glassworks, in east Vancouver.
John Nutter, Ridington Room – The Magic of Discovery
John Nutter was first approached by Jean Barber to create an installation for the Ridington Room, located in the building’s northwest corner. Nutter designed the 45-panel glass sculpture to “flow like the Northern Lights,” and centred the intricate etchings around a series of compasses. Nutter felt the Library, like a compass, should be used “as a tool of discovery.”
John Nutter – Atrium
This spectacular chandelier-type piece fills the Learning Centre’s atrium with a spiral of 57 panels of starfire glass. This type of glass is lead free and low in iron, and therefore less green in hue than ordinary glass.
“Of all the work I’ve done, this piece exceeds what I thought was possible,” says Nutter. Using sandblast carving and stained glass detailing, Nutter has incorporated symbols, runes and excerpts from such ancient texts as the Gutenberg Bible, Beowulf and the Dead Sea Scrolls. He also applied a dichroic coating to each panel, which lends a luminescence to the work. LED lights embedded in metal panels accompanying each glass piece add to the ambience.
Nutter believes this work represents the evolution and discovery of knowledge – but he also feels it shouldn’t be over-thought.
The piece’s lighting proved to be a challenge at first, as did the need for the necessary seismic clips to hold the sculpture in place. Now that the work is complete, Nutter says he can’t take such large installation pieces much further. When asked what’s next, he replied with great emphasis, “Holograms. Definitely.”
Kevin Dubois, Glass Bookcases
Last but certainly not least are two pieces from local artist Kevin Dubois. His fired and cast glass bookshelves, adjacent to the main entrance, lend an air of learning to the facility. Dubois, who has worked with stained, enameled, cast and blown glass, feels the substance complements the space.
As part of his practice, he has combined different materials and experimented with various mediums. Dubois has also worked in wood, paper and photography, and sound and video experiments have also impacted his art-making.
More artwork from Dubois will soon grace the spaces of the Learning Centre, with pieces set to be installed in coming months.
For more detailed information on the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre’s art work, please consult the following brochure: