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‘Chrysalis’ Artwork Takes Flight in Education Building

by Ashley Lawrence / May 12, 2022

Ann B. Coddington weaving and Chrysalis being installed

Artist Ann B. Coddington in her studio (photo credit Suela) and a portion of 'Chrysalis' at the Education Building.

With commencements, convocations, and graduations upon us, it’s a fitting time of year for stories of growth, transformation, and launch. New artwork in the College of Education Building speaks to this theme while elevating overall aesthetics.

Chrysalis’, the new sculptural art installation featured in the north stairwell, aims to metaphorically highlight and represent the transformative learning experience for students during their academic career at the University of Illinois. A ‘chrysalis’ refers to the protective casing the monarch caterpillar creates, inside which it transforms into a butterfly.

Ann B. Coddington, MFA ’93 Sculpture FAA (College of Fine and Applied Arts), created the artwork, which hangs three stories tall, from just three uniquely-shaped forms that she tightly wove in linen fiber using an ancient basketry technique called twining. After building plaster molds from her woven forms, she cast the chrysalis-inspired pieces using ceramic slip, bisque fired, then glazed, kiln fired, and finished each with gold leaf detail. Finally, Coddington meticulously threaded and suspended the more than 70 individual chrysalises with stainless steel wire.

Watch the timelapse video of the 'Chrysalis' installation.

An educator herself—in addition to being an active artist, Coddington is a professor of art at Eastern Illinois University—she says the learning process that accompanied ‘Chrysalis’ was something she thoroughly enjoyed.

Process of creating Chrysalis“Every single project, I learn more and more,” Coddington says. “I like to try to stretch into something that I don’t know how to do. That’s how you grow. You push that learning edge and expand your skills. I’ve been immersed in this project since November 2021, and it’s been fun to do a deep dive into something like monarch butterflies. It’s really cool to put yourself in the position of learning.”

During the course of the project, the College’s facilities manager, Jeffry Royce, found himself learning on the job as well.

After searching about 11 years’ worth of work order history, Royce couldn't find anything more than the occasional lightbulb replacement that had been done in the expansive stairwell space. He worked with a paint crew to color match Coddington’s desired shade of orange for the four-story stairwell walls, which are the backdrop for the chrysalis installation.

“By the look of the disintegrating skylight diffusers that were removed from the third floor’s ceiling during the painting process, it's likely that no substantive improvements had been made in this area of the building for decades,” say Royce. “Once the walls were painted, it brought into focus how decrepit the rail spindles, doors, and stair stringers looked. So those were ultimately painted as well.”

Then, a team from Facilities and Services collaborated with Royce, Coddington, and Gina Manola, the College’s director of marketing and communications, and F&S carpenters designed, fabricated, and installed the mounting hardware for the artwork to suspend from.

“Having a single piece of art which can be observed and appreciated from every level of the building will hopefully spark ideas and investment for future updates to the building’s upper levels,” says Royce.

Manola says the project wouldn’t have been feasible without a gift from the John N. Chester Estate Endowment Fund, provided by the Office of the Chancellor. The Chester Fund supports the acquisition of significant artwork for campus beautification. This is the third time Manola has submitted a Chester Fund proposal that has been awarded funding. She believes that updating and beautifying the Education Building is a source of inspiration and pride for the entire College community, and is meaningful to the overall student experience, too.

“‘Chrysalis’ is a quiet, architectural piece that is different from the photography murals and visual branding throughout the first floor,” Manola says. “Its shape, structure, and its nod to natural elements really vibes with the mid-century modern construction and era of the Education Building, so it works.”

Coddington says she is honored and “super excited” to have her artwork displayed at her alma mater.

“Almost 30 years ago, I graduated with my MFA from the Sculpture Program,” said Coddington. “My father and mother both went to U of I, so did my sister, and my son and daughter—we’re generations of really big Illinois supporters and I’m so happy to now have a piece on campus.”