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LSU's Ogden Honors College Acquires "Azimuth" as Part of Landscape Architecture Plan

Observant Tigers may have noticed a change on the Honors Campus just north of the French House abutting South Campus Drive: a stunning, 22-foot tall stainless steel sculpture entitled “Azimuth” by the sculptor and metalsmith John Medwedeff. Part of a multi-phase landscape plan that Dean Jonathan Earle intends to help students, faculty, and visitors feel they are inhabiting a truly unique space, the sculpture was commissioned by Louisiana’s Percent for Art Program. 

The Percent for Art law, enacted in 1999, requires that when more than $2 million or more in state funds is spent by a state agency for the construction or renovation of a state building, 1% of the money funds a project to acquire, conserve, restore and install works of art for display in, on, or on the grounds of the state building.

Dean Earle couldn’t be more pleased with the way the piece enhances the space on the honors campus. “The process was long but rewarding: John Medwedeff’s proposal for “Azimuth” won over our committee because of its scale, beauty, originality, and fit for the space on the north side of the French House on the honors campus. As for the name – I love that “Azimuth” speaks directly to important fields like geometry, celestial navigation, cartography, and even astronomy. It gives our community a lot to think about,” he said.

When asked about what it meant to win the competition that would bring his work to LSU, Medwedeff described a full-circle moment. “I enter a lot of competitions. It's a very competitive business. There's a lot of talented people out there and on a practical level, it’s my job. I run a business,” said Medwedeff. “But, on a personal level, my grandfather Dr. Rudolph Kampmeier was a member of the LSU Health Sciences faculty in the 1930s. It has nothing to do with the artwork but it’s meaningful to me that I get to install a piece of my art here.” 

Medwedeff drew inspiration from the idea of people in college starting their professional lives and sometimes discovering who they are as people. He wanted to express uplifting, forward momentum through shapes that convey that sensibility. 

While Medwedeff is challenged to push the limits of his medium and artwork, one of the criteria that the selection committee had identified was they wanted the sculpture to be a destination and a gathering place. “When the landscape plan is completed you'll be able to walk almost right up to the base plate. Then you can look up through the canopy part. It has an architectural feeling when you're in that space and people will be able to interact with the sculpture in that way.” 

Medwedeff who has been a full-time professional artist since 1988 and said he especially loves to create public art. His business card features an image of his sculpture “Whirl” on the front, which is installed on the Mississippi River Bluff in Memphis, Tennessee. “That's one of my favorite pieces because I started my career there working at the Metal Museum. It's a cool piece that got voted the best place in Memphis to ‘take a free date.’ I see really good pieces of public art become part of the fabric of people's lives. They become landmarks in a community, they become landmarks and people's personal lives,” said Medwedeff. “I built a fountain in our town near the courthouse and people get their wedding photographs taken there.”

As for “Azimuth,” Medwedeff said “I felt like this was what the committee was seeking, without explicitly asking — a marker for [the Ogden Honors] college and within LSU.” 

“For a lot of people, they can’t just go out and purchase pieces like this for their personal enjoyment. Public art allows everybody in the community to experience art. It’s really egalitarian and I truly believe that art is for everybody,” he said.