New Sculpture Honors Campus Maintenance Workers
Dubbed “Arc de Boot,” the 9-by-11-foot structure resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Its two columns consist of cast-iron molds of boots from Campus Services workers. The arch is topped with copper and straddles the pathway to the Clinton Center, which houses Campus Services offices.
Unlike most sculptures, this one is meant to be touched, said Terry Harding, director of Campus Services, and William Hoffman, ’05, the creator.
Harding first thought of the sculpture nearly 10 years ago, when old boots began piling up in his office.
“We provide steel-toed boots to those who work with heavy cargo,” he said. “Employees are reimbursed for new steel-toed boots as long as they bring in a receipt of purchase and turn in their old boots. I began to look at them more as symbols of the individuals’ work lives and pondered about some way to put them to use aesthetically.”
Together with Kenneth Payne, professor of fine arts, Harding began to plan the sculpture design in 2006. Payne suggested commissioning Hoffman, a recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, because he witnessed Hoffman’s metal-casting skills in class.
“I initially came to Buffalo State for fine arts, but after taking several anthropology classes, my interests expanded to archaeology and sculpture,” Hoffman said. “When I was asked to design a monument for the front of the Clinton Center, I immediately thought of an arch. In the classic sense, an arch is a symbol of victory, praise, and honor. From an engineering standpoint, it is held together by the sum of its parts. Symbolically, the arch shows that the worker holds up the college and holds it together.”
Using liquid rubber, casting wax, sand, and a special resin, Hoffman worked for nearly two years to create more than 20 unique casts from workers’ old boots. After making hundreds of iron boots, he welded them into two 2-by-2 columns. A “test boot” with Hoffman’s signature sits just a few inches from the base.
Harding said the arch, which was erected during the summer of 2008, is made almost entirely of scrap metal from old iron radiators. He considers it a very tactile piece.
“The sculpture is made to touch; that’s the intent,” he said. “Even if you know nothing about the sculpture’s background, it speaks to you. It could represent working people anywhere.”
For Hoffman, “Arc de Boot” evokes tremendous pride. “It was an honor to create this sculpture,” he said. “It’s meant to be a tribute to the workers and give them a distinction, a voice. It’s easy to think about professors and administrators when you think of a college. But without the plumbers, cleaning staff, electricians, groundskeepers, maintenance staff, and so forth, it wouldn’t run.”
Likewise, Harding and his staff members are very proud of the sculpture. “This is a visual testament to what we do,” he said.