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Oklahoma State University Adds Active Art Space

Oklahoma State University recently celebrated its new "active art area," which includes a swing, a large group hammock, and several poles for individual hammocks and slacklines. The space also showcases artwork from students and faculty.

Suzy Harrington, OSU's Chief Wellness Officer, said the space is an important part of the university's wellness program. 

"To me, it's really pulling together the different dimensions of wellness," Harrington said. "Physical, getting outside, it's emotional and social because you're out there with people. It's almost spiritual because you're taking that moment to kind of just relax and emotional of course because you're taking a break out there. So I think it's going to be something new and unique that will be really something people will really remember OSU for."

Students are taking full advantage of the space. Ben Wilson, a senior at OSU, has been practicing slacklining for years. He has accumulated a lot of gear, he said. He likes to set up his lines every Tuesday, and he encourages people walking by to try it out. 

Wilson is able to transfer yoga techniques to the lines. He demonstrated at the celebration, balancing on the ropes with nothing but his hands. Sometimes when people first start out they think it's easy, he said. Watching beginners is almost like watching someone learn how to walk all over again. 

The university has had slackline poles in the past, but with regular use they began to pull out of the ground. 

"OSU recognized that definitely the students were using it and were kind of creating a group of people who really enjoyed it," Wilson said. 

Several students and faculty members have artwork on display in the new space. Sallie McCorkle, a professor of sculpture and 3D design at OSU, said her piece, On Site Circus, reflects the space itself. It includes her unicycle, which she is no longer able to ride. 

"I wanted to do a piece that was a sculptural installation that reflected something of the mood that we're going through."

The idea for the space started when a student realized the campus needed more room for hammocks. 

Sarah Dixon, a sociology student, said one day she and a friend tied their hammocks to trees and were told by a campus landscaper the hammocks could damage the trees. She decided to email OSU President Burns Hargis to ask if there was any way to improve the space for hammocks. 

At first, she didn't think she'd get a response, she said in a speech at the celebration. However, Hargis responded quickly and directed her to David Brown, landscaping design supervisor at OSU. With the help of the wellness office, Brown, and the Merrick Foundation, the space became a reality. 

"Well, you know OSU," Dixon said. "If they have a great idea, they find ways to make it happen. So when I found out that it was actually going to be done for this semester I was ecstatic."

Funding for the space comes from the Merrick Foundation, an organization Hargis said is dedicated to improving healthy lifestyles at OSU. 

Frank Merrick said during the celebration that he's never seen the campus look better.

Students have already started taking advantage of the area, especially the group hammock. At most times of the day, several students can be found lounging about with friends or alone with a book. Some students, like Jamie Phillips, even show up in the middle of the night. 

"I have insomnia, so in the middle of the night it's really fun to come here because there's always a bunch of people randomly here," Phillips said. 

More information on the active art area and other OSU wellness programs can be found at americashealthiestcampus.okstate.edu.

Caele Pemberton was the Arts & Culture reporter at KOSU from August 2015 to May 2016.
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