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Springfield Art Museum now home to new interactive sculpture

Ernest and Ruth by Hank Willis Thomas on the west lawn of the Springfield Art Museum (photo taken August 7, 2023)
Michele Skalicky
Ernest and Ruth by Hank Willis Thomas on the west lawn of the Springfield Art Museum (photo taken August 7, 2023)

Ernest and Ruth is on the lawn west of the art museum.

There’s a new sculpture at the Springfield Art Museum.

The interactive sculpture, Ernest and Ruth by Hank Willis Thomas, is located outdoors on the Hatch Foundation Lawn.

Thomas is a prominent contemporary Black artist who uses photography, sculpture and installation work to explore issues of identity, history, race, class and popular culture, according to the museum in a news release.

Ernest and Ruth is named after Thomas’s grandparents. It’s both a sculpture and a bench shaped like a cartoon speech bubble. Visitors are invited to sit on the sculpture to rest and to interact with the work and with each other. While seated on the bench, the viewer becomes included in the speech bubble, according to the museum. The work invites dialogue about art and promotes discourse and listening, museum officials said. Thomas said, "when viewers occupy the piece, they are encouraged to contemplate what it means to inhabit their own speech and beliefs."

This work was purchased, by exchange, through gifts of Ronald K., Robert C. and Larry H. Greenburg.

"The installation of this work on the Museum’s grounds – on the Hatch Foundation Lawn - creates an intentionally interactive experience that contrasts with the Museum’s other current outdoor sculpture offerings. Other intentionally interactive sculptures like Rebecca Hackemann’s Visionary Sightseeing Binocular and Shawn Bitters’ Burn Out are currently uninstalled but will return to the Museum’s grounds in the future. The curves and rounded form of Ernest and Ruth provide a counter-experience to the hard edges and lines of other monumental sculptures or smaller contemplative figurative or abstract works currently sited on the Museum’s grounds," the museum said in the statement.

The Springfield Art Museum is located at 1111 East Brookside Drive. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.