"Barn Again" Exhibit Opens Oct. 18 in Vol Walker Hall’s Smith Exhibition Gallery

This photograph by Phoebe Lickwar will be part of the “Barn Again” exhibit, on display Oct. 18 through Nov. 1 in the Fred and Mary Smith Exhibition Gallery in Vol Walker Hall.
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This photograph by Phoebe Lickwar will be part of the “Barn Again” exhibit, on display Oct. 18 through Nov. 1 in the Fred and Mary Smith Exhibition Gallery in Vol Walker Hall.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – When some Fay Jones School of Architecture professors see a barn, they don’t only see a structure. They see a once rich agricultural and economic history that’s fading. They see a piece of vernacular architecture, neglected and deteriorating. They see a physical landscape that is changing to accommodate the transition into the next phase.

Frank Jacobus, assistant professor of architecture professor, and Phoebe Lickwar, assistant professor of landscape architecture, have been working together on research of falling barns. They joined forces with Marc Manack, also assistant professor of architecture, to create an exhibit called “Barn Again,” which will be on display from Friday, Oct. 18, through Nov. 1 in the Fred and Mary Smith Exhibition Gallery in Vol Walker Hall on the University of Arkansas campus.

An opening reception will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Oct. 18.

The barns seen along roadsides here and in his former home of Idaho have long interested Jacobus. He considered them beautiful structures at a basic level, but he realized their form kept changing over time due to natural elements, and that they eventually would disappear. He was also drawn to the social, technological and economic factors at play.

For Lickwar, the meaning of barns has evolved, since they aren’t used as they once were. They have become a symbol of many things, and the subjects of several of her photographs.

“They exist as icons that remind us of a relationship that’s changed – a cultivation and engagement with the land that no longer exists,” Lickwar said.

Some of the barns are on property once owned by a family’s parents or grandparents, but the culture of the space has changed over time, Jacobus said. They watch the barn gradually fade, but they don’t have the money or reason to repair it.

“For some people, it’s not a happy reminder,” Lickwar said. “And, for some of the people who used to own these barns, there can be a bit of sadness that they aren’t able to maintain them, or that their livelihood is gone now.”

As they’ve done their research, Lickwar and Jacobus have realized how strongly people seem to connect to barns. There is even a Facebook group dedicated solely to barns in Arkansas.

A 1920s barn from a former cattle ranch on the north edge of Fayetteville caught Lickwar’s eye earlier this year, so she stopped to photograph it. While there, she talked to the owner about the barn, which he said couldn’t be repaired and had to come down. She requested that the school salvage boards for reuse.

With this exhibit, Lickwar and Jacobus aimed to take their research to a new place, where they projected and speculated a bit into the future. “We wanted to do a project that was a remembrance of the thing that was disappearing and a reimagining of what it could be spatially,” Lickwar said.

Manack is less interested in the social aspects of a barn. He was more drawn to the physicality of the figure, its transformation, and what it could become as an exhibit piece.

This exhibit features 20 color photographs taken by Lickwar, showing barns in Washington and Madison counties and in Bentonville. They are a landscape perspective, providing a cinematic storyline that runs through the exhibit space. Lickwar hopes these images will generate more awareness about barns, and potentially a movement to save some of these pieces of vernacular architecture.

For the exhibit, Jacobus has created four “informational totems,” that describe the history of barns and the factors that have played a role in their disuse. Each wooden totem shows a vertical timeline, focusing on a specific aspect that contributed to the demise of barns. He also incorporated Lickwar’s photographs into these pieces.

Manack worked with some of his current and former architecture students to design the barn installation piece, which will be the centerpiece of the exhibit. They used computer software for the design, but then built it all by hand – a merging of “low tech and high tech.”

“We’re not rebuilding a barn that’s falling down; we’re basically doing a new version of it,” Manack said.

To design it, they took an ideal image of a barn and merged it with one of Lickwar’s photographs of a falling barn. They mimicked the way the structure tends to corkscrew as it sags.

Mark Wise, a former visiting assistant professor, taught students how to safely deconstruct the barn, which they did on a cold, wet, spring day. They spent hours sorting and pulling nails from the pieces of wood.

The final structure stands 8 feet tall, 8 feet wide and 16 feet long, and is held together with clear cable ties – a choice made for ease of assembly, not craft, Manack said. Visitors will be able to walk through this structure.

“We hope it will feel light and airy and filigree, like a barn does when you walk through and some of the boards are missing,” Manack said. “We’re not trying to replicate that, but we’re trying to capitalize on what that effect is, the kind of ephemeral essence of the barn.”

The installation piece shows an idea of what a barn was and will be, Jacobus said.

“At some point, it was this figure, this formal shape that we all can identify with, that we all sort of know,” Jacobus said. “We all have an image of what barns look like. As they collapse they begin to take on a new formal presence.”

The “Barn Again” exhibit is free and open to the public. For more information, contact 479-575-4945.

Contacts

Michelle Parks, director of communications
Fay Jones School of Architecture
479-575-4704, mparks17@uark.edu

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