Week 4 (“Transformations” – sculpture by Howard Meehan)


Art, Architecture and Design in Columbus, Indiana

This article spotlights a particular building or some other aspect of Columbus design. I welcome your comments, corrections and additions. Please share your experience and perceptions of these uniquely Columbus projects.

“Transformations” – a sculpture by Howard Meehan

  • Artist: Howard Meehan
  • Location: IUPUC (4601 Central Ave)
  • Built: 2010

“Transformations” is a large public sculpture meant to be an identifying signature landmark on the IUPUC (Indiana University – Purdue University at Columbus) campus. The sculpture is the centerpiece of the Reeves Sculpture Plaza. The plaza was made possible by a grant from the Carl M. and Mildred A. Reeves Foundation. This sculpture and plaza is meant to serve as a “front door” to the campus for the community as well as serving as a place for students, faculty and the public to rest and reflect. It is configured as a gathering place and seating area to create a welcoming environment for the entire community.

Created by artist Howard Meehan, the sculpture is nearly 30 feet tall and consists of a polished stainless steel ring with 3 pillars of reflective dichroic glass with interesting reflection patterns in the daylight and is illuminated at night. The main characteristic of dichroic glass is that it has a particular transmitted color and a completely different reflected color, as certain wavelengths of light either pass through or are reflected. It splits a beam of light into 2 beams with differing wavelengths. This causes an array of color to be displayed. The color shift depends upon on the angle of view. The ring which surrounds the glass oscillates with the wind and on some days it appears as if it will break at any moment. It was designed in close collaboration with a structural engineer.

The three lighted glass pillars are meant to symbolize the concepts of light, liberty, and learning. They also serve as a tribute to IUPUC’s collaboration with Indiana University, Purdue University and the people of Columbus. The sculpture is partially enclosed within an 8 foot berm of molded earth and an arched concrete surrounding wall with seating which features a quote by Benjamin Disraeli:

“A University Must be a Place of Light, of Liberty, and of Learning.”

Disraeli was a former British Prime Minister and literary figure.

Dedication of the sculpture was held on November 12, 2010 with artist Howard Meehan present. He seemed very pleased and proud of the results of his work.

Front of sculpture facing the Central Avenue IUPUC entrance
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Front of sculpture facing the Central Avenue IUPUC entrance
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Front of sculpture facing the Central Avenue IUPUC entrance
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Stainless steel ring surrounding 3 pillars of reflective dichroic glass
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Side view
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Side view
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Side view
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Side view
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Rear of sculpture facing Central Avenue
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Rear of sculpture facing Central Avenue
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Rear of sculpture facing Central Avenue
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

View of the stainless steel ring from the concrete side wall
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Quotation on the rear wall
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Closeup of the support arm
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Closeup of the stainless steel ring
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Closeup of the stainless steel ring
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Closeup of the stainless steel ring
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Night view
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Night view
(photo by Ricky Berkey)

Artist Howard Meehan at the dedication
(photo from Columbus visitors Center…used pending permission)

The Artist

Howard Meehan

  • Art Center College of Design – Pasadena, California (1972)
  • Pilchuck Glass School – Seatlle, Washington (1979)

Howard Meehan is an artist from Santa Fe, New Mexico known for his public art projects. He has completed over 35 mixed-media public art projects nationwide. Many of his projects have incorporated history of the local area to encourage the local communities to relate to his work, identify with it and take ownership. His sculptures strive to communicate the spirit of the location.

Among other accomplishments of his career has been as a car designer in Detroit and as a product designer and manager for three fortune 500 companies. His industrial and product design work is exhibited in the Smithsonian National Design Museum’s permanent collection and in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. He has garnered 7 design and engineering patents.

Selected Howard Meehan Projects

1996: Palm Desert Community Walk
Civic Center Rose Garden – City of Palm Desert, California
90’ diameter gathering place: rose garden paths of mosaic, colored concrete, tile, rose poetry, seating; 30’ diameter steel and colored concrete shade sculpture.

1996: Mountain Top
Salt Lake City, Utah
Sand carved laminated glass skylights.

1997: Spirit
University of Oregon – Eugene, Oregon
Steel, laminated glass, dichroic glass, and fire.

1998: Fire & Ice
Grants, New Mexico
Steel, fire, and glass sculpture, 28’ high, with 30’ diameter plaza incorporating timeline of history and stories of the community.

1998: Individual Powers
Salem, Oregon
Precast concrete and glass mosaic seating sculpture with text inspired by idea of personal empowerment.

1999: Sullivant Plaza
Columbus, Ohio
10,000 square foot gathering place inspired by history of area includes: historical quotations, timeline, sculpture, artifacts, seating, lighting, landscaping, arbor fountain.

2001: The Zone
Southern Utah University – Cedar City, Utah
28’ high sculpture, corten steel and dichroic/laminated glass.

2002: Newton’s Corner
Colorado State University – Fort Collins, Colorado
40’ high stainless steel kinetic sculpture inspired by Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity.

2002: Voices of the Sea
City of Huntington Beach, California
Entry sculpture and 3 plazas inspired by T. S. Eliot’s poetry about the sea.

2003: Sleuth
Forensic Science Sculpture – Albecurcue, New Mexico:
25’ high steel sculpture with 9’ dia, glass fingerprint. The slow moving shadow cast a shadow over the elusive quality of evidence.

2003: Balance
University of Gainesville – Gainsville, Florida.
28’ stainless steel kinetic sculpture with 3’ dia. dichroic/laminated glass. It reflects the joint health-related scientific and humanistic purposes of the facility.

2006: Gallup Courthouse Plaza
Gallup, New Mexico
Developed design concepts for the war memorial and the sun daggers in the main plaza.

2008: Circles in Time
Glendale, Arizona
Historic gas station and auto parts garage. Recreated the space focusing on the history of the site and the history of Glendale. Reconstituted the wheel rims, gas pumps and automotive parts existing at the site, reconfigured the landscape plan for public access and display.

2008: All for Want of a Horseshoe Nail
Frisco, Texas
Concrete horseshoe turn around with 30’ tall stainless steel horseshoe nail.

2010: Transformations
Indiana/Purdue University (IUPUC) – Columbus, Indiana
A place of light, liberty and learning. Mounded turf and concrete walls. Gathering space and seating area. Stainless steel sculpture with reflective dichroic glass.


Images of Transformations: slideshow presentation from Howard Meehan’s website

Howard Meehans website:

Columbus Area Visitors Center

City of Columbus: official City of Columbus website

Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives

Columbus Indiana Architecture Digital Archives: A small portion of the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives available online from the IUPUI digital library

3D Models of Columbus Architecture Executed in Google SketchUp:

The Republic Newspaper – Columbus, Indiana newspaper

Bartholomew County Public Library

Historic Columbus Website – David Sechrest’s tribute to Columbus History

Historic Columbus Message Board – a companion interactive forum to the David Sechrest historical website

Bartholomew County Historical Society

Columbus Area Arts Council

Click HERE for a Calendar of Upcoming Events in the Columbus Area.

Click HERE for information about Tours of Columbus Architecture and Design including the Miller House.

Ricky Berkey

Email me: rickyberkey@gmail.com

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