Featured Windows, August 2003
A.W. Farrall Agricultural Engineering Hall Window, Michigan State University
Building: A.W. Farrall Hall, Michigan State University
City: East Lansing
In the 1980s, stained glass artist Nancy Truscott lived in Mason, MI and worked as an MSU employee in the Pathology department. Through an acquaintance who worked in the Agricultural Engineering department, she learned that the department chairperson had been interested in having a stained glass window produced for the building, which at the time was still called the Agricultural Engineering building. The original idea was a stained glass rendering of what Truscott calls the "Potato Pickers," which was supposed to represent the relationship between human endeavor and natural resources. Although it is unclear exactly what work of art Truscott is referring to, a number of artists have portrayed agricultural workers in the fields, such as in Jean François Millet's The Gleaners or Planting Potatoes and Vincent Van Gogh's Potato Harvest.
Truscott attempted to work with the "Potato Picker" design over the course of three months and found it unsatisfactory, particularly in that it lacked any color.
She proposed a new design of a landscape setting with a mill that would represent a human presence in harmony with nature. The original design did not have any animal figures in it, but Truscott added some to the final work, which would be entitled Living in Harmony with Nature. In the scene, a stream flows in the foreground behind a large tree on the far right.
At the very far left we can see a mallard duck and pair of deer. Off in the distance are rolling hills, scattered pine trees and an orderly grouping of trees, representing an orchard.
Truscott completed Living in Harmony with Nature between 1988 and 1989. The 6' x 12' window consists of twenty-four separate panels, which were paid for by donations. A plaque hanging near the window notes that all the donors were department retirees, faculty, staff, students, and USDA personnel. The donors' names were etched onto the individual panels, but are difficult or impossible to see on the installed piece, which hangs high above the second floor staircase near the department office of Biosystems Engineering. Truscott has since examined the window and recalls that she has seen her own name etched on one panel, near the bottom left, but that none of the other donor names are visible. The window itself is also not easily visible from the outside of the building.
The Agricultural Engineering Building was designed by architect Orlie Munson of Lansing, MI and built in 1948 at a cost of $681,542. The Munson firm was also responsible for a number of other campus buildings of that period, including the Auditorium (1940), Jenison Fieldhouse (1940), Berkey Hall (1947), and Anthony Hall (1955). Its Collegiate Gothic design is characterized by twin gabled pavilions, hipped dormers, a slate roof, and limestone coursing. It is one of the last buildings built on south campus that would utilize the red brick and stone that is more common on the older buildings of north campus. In 1985, the building was rededicated and named A.W. Farrall Agricultural Engineering Hall in honor of Arthur W. Farrall (1899-1986), who was department chairperson between 1945 and 1986. In 1999 the building underwent renovations, including a 4,000-square-foot addition designed by the firm Progressive Arch.
Nancy Truscott has since retired from MSU and travels, returning seasonally to Mason, MI. Living in Harmony with Nature is her only major architectural installation. It is not only a meaningful work to the people who pass through Farrall Hall daily, but it is significant to Michigan State's architectural history, being a campus with few examples of permanent stained glass ornamentation. To view other windows on the Michigan State University campus, visit the Windows of the Month for September, 2000.
A.W. Farrall Agricultural Engineering Hall, Michigan State University, of East Lansing was registered in the Michigan Stained Glass Census by Michele Beltran of Haslett, MI.
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Text by Michele Beltran. Photography By: Pearl Yee Wong, Michigan Stained Glass Census, August , 2003.