‘See the Difference. Be the Difference’

Artwork expresses College of Health and Human Services mission

"It is a statement piece, in a significant location of the building, that tells the story of who and what the college represents"

"See the Difference. Be the Difference" is the theme of a striking artwork crowning the recent renovation of the Health and Human Services Building. All who enter are greeted by a glistening mosaic wall expressing the College of Health and Human Services' mission of service to the community and connecting with people across their lifespans.

Award-winning Akron artist Bonnie Cohen used circles to symbolize the universe and our communities, friendships and families. The circles overlap, intersect and converge; magnified sections call to mind the view through a microscope lens or the concentric circles of a soundwave's vibration.

"The timeless medium of mosaic art is a metaphor for our communities," Cohen said in her artist statement. "Every single piece is enhanced by its relationship to the pieces around it. And each individual piece is an integral part of the big picture."

In contrast to the circles, straight lines of bright glass tile traverse the wall and wrap around the corners, drawing the eye toward the center circles. The dimensional clay and glass pieces invite viewers to feel the textures and trace the patterns. Cohen created all of the handmade tiles from Ohio clay, in her studio.

"The installation of Bonnie Cohen's "See the Difference, Be the Difference" mosaic is much more than just artwork adorning the walls of the College of Health and Human Services," said University Architect Barbara Shergalis, director of the Office of Design and Construction, who, with Project Manager Kristi Peiffer, served on the selection committee.

Bonnie-Cohen-working

"It is a statement piece, in a significant location of the building, that tells the story of who and what the college represents, captivating faculty, students and staff to get close and touch, feel and discover the intricate details of the piece. It is an active piece for people to contemplate, while completing the architecture of the space."

Installed in the airy new student hub off the building's expanded entryway, the reflective tiles and cubes of the mosaic catch the changing light and reflect the seasons' shifting color palette.

Embedded throughout are inspirational quotations that reflect the seven dimensions of wellness underlying the college curriculum: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, cultural and occupational.

Among them are "What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make," by Jane Goodall, and "They may forget your name but they will never forget how you made them feel," by Maya Angelou.

"Of the artists we invited in to make presentations after reviewing applicants' portfolios, Bonnie's just stood out," said selection committee member Carroll Feasel, executive assistant to the dean and HHS budget administrator. "It was something that was more dramatic and impactful and reflected our mission and vision statements. Our vote was unanimous."

Coincidentally, Cohen also has a "one degree of separation" connection to BGSU. She has known artist Donald Drumm, who created the large, iconic murals on Jerome Library, since childhood because her father was his accountant and the family owned some of his sculptures. Drumm later designed a fireplace for Cohen and her husband.

Funding for "See the difference. Be the difference" came through the state Percent for Art program, which sets aside a portion of the budget for capital projects costing over a certain amount to be used for public art.

The college houses programs in criminal justice, communication sciences and disorders, nursing, gerontology, food and nutrition, applied health science, social work, public health and medical laboratory sciences. Expanding forensics and laboratory sciences programs will also use the space.

With updated lab, research and classroom facilities, the $9.2 million overall expansion and renovation is part of the campus master plan to modernize academic learning areas.

The College of Health and Human Services currently enrolls more than 1,800 undergraduate and 200 graduate students preparing for a variety of health and human service professions.