Inspire an Innovative Design

ISU students win Meis Plaza Design Competition


Meis Plaza inspires art, design and collaboration

Innovative art and sustainable design. These two elements inspired Laney and Lu Meis to support Meis Plaza. The plaza, located in front of the Indiana State University Foundation office, has been a collaborative effort among students, donors and private business to enhance the University and community outdoor art collection.

Meis Plaza was funded through a gift from Lu and Laney Meis of Terre Haute. As they are strong advocates and supporters of the Arts in the Wabash Valley, Meis Plaza will be a prominent downtown art feature. Laney, who has served as past chair of the State Arts Commission, is currently a founding member on the Wabash Valley Art Spaces board.

“We are always looking for sites for a sculpture and thought this would be a great spot,” Laney Meis said. “Our whole point of Art Spaces was not only culturally, but we thought it was an economic component to the city. Terre Haute is getting kinda known for their sculptures now.”

Innovative Art

The plaza features Renewal by Tim Upham of Fort Collins, Colorado. The sculpture is part of the Wabash Valley public art collection that was made possible through the Meis’ philanthropy and a partnership with Art Spaces, Inc.

Renewal is a 12-foot tall by 20-foot long sculpture that incorporates the University’s iconic sycamore leaf into the design of the sculpture and is constructed of stainless steel, white painted metal and thousands of cobalt blue glass marbles.

“Approaching the plaza from any direction will reveal a visual representation of a wave as it releases a dynamic flow of energy toward the building’s main entrance,” Upham said. “It is only when the visitor is under the blue and white canopy that a sense of discovery will occur as you realize that the wave is also a cobalt blue sycamore leaf.”

Upham has more than 15 years of experience as an artist and has specific sculptures in several Colorado communities as well as Memphis, Tennessee and at the Booker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center near Tarpon Springs, Florida. He works in collaboration with his brother, Rick, owner and operator of Flash Welding in Fort Collins, to fabricate the pieces needed for each project.

The name of the sculpture was chosen from a contest open to both the University and community. The winning name, Renewal, was submitted by ISU sophomore, Tyler Miller of Elkhart. The name was chosen from more than 100 entries submitted by Indiana State students and alumni, as well as Wabash Valley residents.

“…It looks like a wave folding over. This symbolizes a generation of Sycamores graduating, and a new wave taking their place, ‘renewing’ Sycamore pride,” Miller said in his submission statement.

Sustainable Design

Additional student involvement with the project came through the landscape design. A student team of designers, CSW Design, created the design for the plaza through a campus wide design competition. The team members included Andrea Cole, 2012 interior architecture design graduate from Greenfield; Sarah Stetter, 2012 interior architecture design graduate from St. Anthony; and Julie Whitaker, senior human and environmental systems major from New Palestine.

“It was great to work in a group and I really got to understand better how to work with a client, other trades, and a landscape architect,” Andrea Cole said. “Winning this project was humbling and extremely exciting. I have never won a competition of this caliber before and I now know that my hard work can really pay off. I am so honored that our group’s design will live on at ISU and I can take this experience with me into the professional world.”

The competition served as an experiential learning opportunity for Indiana State students. The contest instructions were to design the Meis Plaza and incorporate the current plaza features of the sculpture, Renewal, and donor named gardens, Samantha’s Gardens, and surround and enhance them by designing functional public and event space.

The winning student design was selected by a panel of judges who noted the CSW Design’s use of creativity and flexibility within the space. The design concept, Encompassing Points of Interest, uses curvilinear shapes,a variety of sustainable materials, and enhanced garden areas to compliment the Foundation building and existing plaza features. It also draws on warm tones with splashes of Sycamore blue to “invigorate the mind and emphasize the focal points.”

“We based our design off of Renewal. We tried to encompass points of interest while also tying the architectural elements of the building and the shape of the sculpture together,” Sarah Stetter said.

The student team’s community mentor for the competition, Andy Verdeyen, serves as the project coordinator. Verdeyen, a Terre Haute native, is the owner of Verdeyen Group LLC, a landscaping and architectural company based in Indianapolis. Meis Plaza was completed and dedicated on October 4 as a part of the ISU Homecoming festivities.

“It’s been exciting to be a part of a project that is a total collaboration between the public and private sectors, along with Indiana State University students,” Laney Meis said. “It shows what terrific things can be accomplished with this kind of cooperation.”