Nut and Bolt by J. Arthur Benson, 1982
Illustration by Precious Blake
Art Benson lives in Baltimore where he was on the faculty of the Maryland Institute College of Art for three decades, from 1972 to 2002, serving as the head of the undergraduate sculpture department. He recieved this commission in 1981 from James Pettit, the project architect for Ayers Saint (today Ayers Saint Gross), who designed the new addition to the Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School.
The artwork was to be developed as part of an elevated two story pedestrian bridge connecting the new building to the older one. The walkway is clad in metal panels that were painted yellow, white, and red arranged to emphasize the mechanical nature of the bridge. The bridge functions as a visual anchor but also hides structural colomns that turned out to be needed to support the bridge above the plaza area. Two large L brackets, one designed for each side of the elevated passagway, appear to have been fixed in place by four nuts and bolts.
The architect and artist collaborated to produce a work of art that would be fun, colorful, and visually related to a tinker toy. After all, this was a school for young children and Nut and Bolt would be installed near where these students would play every day.
See more of Art Benson’s work at www.arthurbenson.com
Want to know more about Baltimore Public Art? Pick up the book Outdoor Sculpture in Baltimore: A Historical Guide to Public Art in the Monumental City by Cindy Kelly.