Unity Park and sculpture to premiere in April at Truax

Kim Johnson-Bair, Staff Writer

Madison College’s Bob Corbett has been an architect for the last 10 years. He calls his recent collaborative project, a “labor of love.” Corbett, along with a group of students and past graduates are in the midst of revitalizing a long overdue project, recently named Madison College’s Unity Park.

If you’ve been to the Madison College Library, you’ve probably seen the Peace Pole in the lobby. Madison College’s Unity Park, originally called the Peace Park project, was designed to compliment that Peace Pole. The original project idea was submitted by professor Geoff Bradshaw, now director of the Center for International Education, as a memorial park after the 9/11 attacks.

Since originally proposed, the project has been revisited and now focuses on unity and the community. In 2010 the project was taken up by the Student Activities Board (SAB.) “It sat there until about two or three years ago, when Jason Wiedenhoft (former volunteer center staff adviser) approached me and said that SAB was interested in revitalizing that project,” Corbett said.

Once approved, Corbett began working with new drawings and computer models to present to the Madison College executive board. “So we got some bids on it and Findorf were the low-bidders and they got the job,” he said.

The project has gone through three changes in locale. Another architect, Bruce Morrow, suggested the current location. “I was a little reluctant at first, but as soon as I went out there and looked at it, I thought, this spot is perfect,” Corbett said.

As the project progressed, other issues emerged. “The sculptural piece is surrounded by Wetlands and an environmental corridor, so that required a special approval—so that took a while.”

Construction finally began on the project last summer. A berm was created and cement was poured. For Corbett’s work on the sculpture, Custom Metals ordered special cortex steel to be used for the actual sculptural pieces.

“The project itself is a perceptual piece—the centerpiece is a 4-foot globe,” Corbett said.

He describes the sculpture as, “a replica of the world.” In creating the piece, Corbett said he worked to emphasize the continents on the globe and then cut the continents out of the globe to then recess them in.

“When you go in there, you notice that all the continents are sort of missing. And then you look around you and you realize all the continents are kind of surrounding you and creating this space,” Corbett said.

Corbett said he hopes Madison College’s Unity Park will serve as contemplative space for students and the community. Beyond the centerpiece sculpture, a variety of native Wisconsin plants will landscape the area.

Corbett provided a list of students, past graduates, faculty and staff who have been involved in the development of the project. They are: Mark Bossenbroek, Rachel Beesen, Jacob Hanson Ostergard, Jessica Klehr and Duane Stegall.

In addition to his work on this project, Corbett instructs Madison College students in the architectural program. This semester, the class is renovating the Midway Barn Complex at Taliesin. “About three or four years ago, we

actually did a project for them that ended up being at the Guggenheim Museum, as part of the Frank Lloyd Wright 100-Year Anniversary Show.”

Corey Little, student executive director of the Volunteer Center assisted by Renee Alfano, Director of Student Life, worked with the Volunteer Center to pick the project up. Little put together the Park committee, which were made up of various student organizations from the SAB. Little says he’s excited to have a space where the community can come together, a place to go and relax and interact with each other. He also said he is excited to have students involved. He also said he is pleased that a date has been set for the ribbon cutting ceremony. The dedication for the park will take place April 22.

“I think the biggest thing, working here, is realizing that you can make a difference in students’ lives. You can give them the skills that they need to get a job: that’s easily the nicest part of working here,” Corbett said.