Administration Looks to Stem the Tide of Student Swimmers in Skyspace Pool

5-C students and members of the Claremont community have been enjoying the Skyspace art exhibit on Pomona’s campus since it was unveiled in 2007. But Pomona College Museum of Art Director Kathleen Howe and Associate Dean of Students Ric Townes have become concerned with students and community members’ recent use of the space for parties and wading.The Skyspace, designed by James Turrell PO ’65, showcases an infinity pool beneath an illuminated metal canopy that serves as a frame for the sky.At sunset and sunrise, as well as at the top of every hour, lighting elements illuminate the metal canopy.According to the website of the Pomona College Museum of Art, these illuminations “create the changing perception of sky as space, form, object, and void.” Many students visit the Skyspace not only for the light show, but to use it as a study space.Howe said she is pleased by the 5-C community’s appreciation for the piece.“They love it, they use it, they feel like they own it,” she said. “James Turrell, the artist, was really delighted to find [that] out.”However, she and Townes are worried about potentially damaging uses of the Skyspace.Howes said she saw a Facebook page this summer that showed Claremont community members playing in the infinity pool and serving food and drink while having a birthday party in the Skyspace.Howe said her first concern was safety.“It’s wet polished granite, it’s deeper than you think, and it seemed like it would be really easy for someone to slip and smash their head, or break their arm,” she said. “And then the college is liable…You know the reaction will be to empty the pool, close it, make it not accessible…which would be just a shame.”Howe also said she was worried about damage to the pool that would prevent future students from enjoying the space. “If you put four or five people in the pool at once, the refilling pump is sucking air for a while, which isn’t good for the pump. And it also makes the grounds-people think that there’s a leak because they’re losing water,” she said. “Once you’ve dropped melted brie on the pavers…it becomes really not something the piece was meant for.”However, Claire Mueller PO ’13 defends the use of the Skyspace as a pool.“I think it’s almost better if you use it as a pool because then it’s an interactive art piece,” she said.Howe said she understands why that use is attractive, especially when the weather is very warm, but she emphasizes concerns about safety and damage to the pool.School administrators are wary of physically modifying the space to deter students and community members from playing in the pool or hosting parties in the Skyspace.“[Putting up a fence or excessive signage] takes away from the fluidity of appreciating it as an art installation,” Townes said.“We don’t want to set up an experience of that particular artwork that is bounded by restrictions,” Howe said. “But I would like to see it respected and guarded so that it continues to be a source of pleasure.”

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