Bull sculptures part of campus public art

Allison Wickler

Across the street from Haecker Hall, three large bulls rest in the shade on the southeast corner of the St. Paul campus mall.

“Everybody knows them,” said pre-veterinary first-year student Laura Biersach.

The bronze bull sculptures, a recognizable feature on the St. Paul campus, were put there in installments – two in 2001 and one in 2002 – as part of the late-1990s Haecker Hall renovation.

Craig Amundsen, curator for the University’s Public Art on Campus program, said the three parts of the untitled piece, created by artist Peter Woytuk, range from about 4 to 6 feet in height, and from 10 to 13 feet in length.

The bulls were first molded in plaster and then cast in bronze, he said.

Amundsen said the Public Art on Campus program helped the University invest in 39 pieces of public art for open spaces on campus since its creation in 1988, and several more are underway.

He said each one is “site-specific,” representing something about the identity of the building or program it accompanies.

Haecker Hall houses the department of animal science, Amundsen said, so the bulls represent not only part of the department’s purpose, but also the campus’s focus on agriculture on a greater scale.

“In that sense, this piece is symbolic of the heritage of the site,” he said.

Minnesota legislation requires up to $100,000 or 1 percent of the budget for new or renovated state buildings, whichever is less, to be spent on a public art piece in or near the building.

Public Art on Campus works with faculty from the departments in the building to decide what kind of art would best suit the building and then choose an artist based on their needs, Amundsen said.

Animal science professor Michael White, the committee chairman for the Haecker Hall art piece selection, said the committee wanted a large, outdoor piece related to animal science.

Woytuk created bulls like these for other locations, White said, and the committee liked the idea of a piece that could potentially involve the public. Students are invited to climb on and hang out around the sculptures.

“If you can actually interact with the art, that adds a whole other dimension of desirability,” he said.

The University ran into a snag when the art budget would not cover the bulls’ cost, but White said Woytuk eventually agreed to create the bulls at a cost of $55,000.

After their arrival on campus, the bulls saw more action than originally expected.

After pranksters moved and tipped the sculptures in September 2003, the bulls were anchored down, Amundsen said.

Last year, “Coffee with the Bulls” kicked off Beautiful U Day.

While architecture sophomore Stu Wester said he doesn’t like that the bulls are labeled as “art,” he said they are still a notable part of student life on campus.

“It’s like a rite of passage on the St. Paul campus,” he said. “You haven’t lived on the St. Paul campus until you’ve got your picture taken with the bulls.”