October 25, 2020

Farewell to Poetry Garden Artist

Siah Armajani created some of Beloit’s most notable–and useful–works of art.

Autumn foliage in the Poetry Garden. Credit: Amanda Urish’92Siah Armajani, an internationally renowned artist who created the “Beloit Poetry Garden” and the “Gazebo for One Anarchist,” has died.

In addition to two major installations on campus, the Iranian-born American artist left his imprint on the city of Beloit. He created the Wood Family Fishing Bridge, a converted train trestle with an engine that spans the Rock River west of the Powerhouse.

The Poetry Garden came to Beloit after the Lannan Foundation, a non-profit that collected and exhibited art, changed its focus and started divesting its large art collection. The artist had created the garden in 1992 for the foundation’s Los Angeles headquarters. In 1997, when word got out that it was being dismantled and shipped to Beloit, the Los Angeles Times called it “one of the city’s most beloved public artworks.”

The garden was renamed, then Armajani redesigned and expanded it to about four times its original size for the Beloit installation. The art was a gift from Lannan and from the artist, as was the “Gazebo for One Anarchist,” located southeast of Middle College.

Beloit had two connections that brought Armajani’s work to campus. Ninth College President Victor E. Ferrall Jr. is a friend of J. Patrick Lannan Jr., president of the Lannan Foundation, and Alan McIvor, former college vice president for enrollment during the 1980s and ’90s, was the artist’s friend and college classmate. Armajani’s granddaughter also came to Beloit, graduating in 2009.

Since it was christened in 1997 with an all-star poetry reading, the “Beloit Poetry Garden” has hosted countless events and continues to be a popular outdoor space for classes, impromptu dance rehearsals, and study sessions. The gazebo is a place of quiet contemplation and a frequent stop for photo opps.

Nearly 25 years after they arrived at Beloit, Armajani’s artworks continue to be widely embraced on campus and used on a daily basis, fulfilling the intention he expressed about his art in The New Yorker Magazine in 1990. “I am interested in the nobility of usefulness,” he said.


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