Enthusiasm for Learning Leads to Generous WCC Gift
Outside the west entrance to WCC’s Morris Lawrence building, shooting skyward like the fountain in the pond adjacent to it, is a brightly polished stainless steel sculpture. The artwork evokes the nature surrounding it and the music emanating from the building next to it, the unmistakable signature style of famed Mexican artist Leonardo Nierman.
The story of how the sculpture, titled “Equinoccio” (Spanish for Equinox), came to rest outside a place known for music and performance is an interesting one. It starts with a woman who studied at WCC and the enthusiasm she had for the opportunities she found in and out of the classroom.
Sonia Kaufman and her family have been close friends of Nierman for many years, according to Anne Rubin, director of WCC’s art gallery, Gallery One. “Sonia has taken several classes at Washtenaw,” Rubin said. “I think the class that excited her the most to that point was the one she took with [performing arts instructor] Traci Komarmy, which went to the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario. Sonia thought that the College was doing terrific things.”
Kaufman was so excited about the opportunities the College made available to her and other students, Rubin said, that she discussed them with Nierman, who is very interested in education. That conversation inspired the generous gift of a Nierman sculpture from the Kaufman family.
This set in motion a host of activities, including an exhibition series on Latin American art in Gallery One that included an exhibition of Nierman’s tapestries and paintings. It culminated in a week-long travel/study opportunity to Mexico City in 2005 for 12 students, which included a visit to Nierman’s studio and dinner with the artist, whose music-inspired art is reflected in the affectionate title he has been given by friends and admirers.
“In Maestro Nierman’s neighborhood you see only ornate door fronts positioned close to the street; it’s hard to determine the layout of the house behind it,” said John Moreno, one of the people who participated in the trip. “Behind his house is a courtyard, then his studio. There had to be 20 or 30 sculptures of various sizes in the courtyard waiting to be sent out—it was really quite impressive. We knew he was going to donate one of them to the College, so we kept asking which one until it was pointed out to us. We took a lot of pictures of it so people back at the College could see what was coming.”
Moreno, a retired middle school teacher, was impressed by the energy of Nierman, who was then 73. “He starts work in his studio around 3:00pm and keeps going well into the night,” Moreno said. “He was quite hospitable and a very energizing man the two days he spent with us. That first day we had barely gotten into town and situated when he called and invited us to a performance of the Mexico City Symphony. Another day we toured some of the government buildings where his tapestries and paintings were displayed. The range of his work and his ability to go into different mediums is impressive.”
Many of the students who traveled to Mexico City were on hand when the sculpture was installed outside the Morris Lawrence building in June 2008, with the artist and Kaufman present. Today it stands in testament that opportunities await us everywhere.
To learn more about Leonardo Nierman and his art, visit www.leonardonierman.net.