Students create commemorative art for Rountree Commons

August 4, 2016
Rountree Art

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Two students from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville recently created a commemorative, functional piece of artwork for Rountree Commons residence hall using wood that was felled in the university’s Memorial Park during the June 2014 tornado.

The artwork – completed and installed on June 16, exactly two years after the tornado struck campus – incorporates different types of wood to create a diverse visual effect that complements the existing décor of the building.

Commissioned by UW-Platteville and the UW-Platteville Real Estate Foundation, the artwork was designed to be aesthetically pleasing as well as functional. It is a welcoming feature for residents and guests entering the residence hall and provides a place where individuals can store their backpacks when visiting Kristine’s Kafe, a convenience store in Rountree Commons.

“This artwork not only brings function and design to Rountree Commons, it also commemorates the tornado that damaged over 40 percent of the building in June 2014,” said Kelly Podach Francis, director of Facilities Operations at Rountree Commons. “It allows for something beautiful and helpful to be created from trees that were damaged at that time. The artwork will be seen by many people, as Rountree Commons houses 620 residents and welcomes a multitude of guests throughout the year, including the summer (as a host to various youth camps and conferences).”

Students who created the artwork include Alisia Newport, a junior art major and psychology minor from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Eric Matuszak, a sophomore building construction management/building construction safety management major from Cuba City, Wisconsin.

“I enjoyed installing the project because it was a vision coming to life,” said Newport. “I feel very fortunate to leave a mark on a place that means so much to me. I am also very thankful for the outstanding faculty that helped make this project a reality.”

“Alisia brought this project to my attention,” said Matuszak. “She didn’t have to ask twice, for I love working with wood. When I picked up the wood, I really didn’t know what to expect and it ended up being awesome wood to work with. I want to thank everyone who made this possible because I really enjoyed working on this project. It’s not every day you get a chance to build eight-foot-tall pickaxes.”

The project gave Newport and Matuszak an opportunity to develop a proposal and then work collaboratively with their clients – the university and the UW-Platteville Real Estate Foundation – to tailor the design to their needs and create a commissioned piece of work.

“I feel very fortunate to leave a mark on a place that means so much to me."

       – Alisia Newport, junior art major

The project took approximately 30-40 hours to complete. In fall 2015, Podach Francis sent out a call for entries for a committee consisting of representatives from Rountree Commons, UW-Platteville Real Estate Foundation and UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, with submissions due Nov. 4.

After the committee reviewed the submission that was received, it asked the artists to modify their design to better meet the needs of the building and space where the piece was going to be installed. The original design that Newport and Matuszak submitted was a bookcase display format, which was not ideal for the space, functionally or in terms of maintenance. Podach Francis worked with the students to share the needs of the Rountree Commons space and provide the information they needed to alter their design so that it was in line with what would meet the needs of the space.

In early March 2016, the final design was approved. Podach Francis then collaborated with Newport and Matuszak to work out an extended deadline because of conflicts. This, in turn, led to the sheer coincidence that the project was completed and installed on June 16, exactly two years after the tornado struck.

In addition to Newport and Matuszak, the following individuals and groups helped implement the project: Podach Francis; staff members of Rountree Commons; UW-Platteville Real Estate Foundation; Johanna Belken, assistant director of publishing, University Information and Communications; staff members of University Information and Communications; Carole Spelić, senior art lecturer at UW-Platteville; and Peter Flanary, art lecturer at UW-Platteville.

As UW-Platteville pursues its vision of being recognized as the leading student-focused university for its success in achieving excellence, creating opportunities, and empowering each individual, it is guided by four strategic planning priorities. The commemorative art project aligns with the priorities of providing an outstanding education and fostering a community of achievement and respect.

Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191,


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