A Freudian Walking Tour of GVSU

Kevin Joffre

Hello, and welcome to the Self-Guided Freudian Walking Tour of Grand Valley State University’s Allendale campus. The purpose of this tour is to provide you with an overview of the phallic art on campus, as well as to suggest some potential theories on its prevalence.

We’ll begin at the Cook Carillon Tower. Located between Kirkhof and the Student Services Building, this majestic clock tower is GVSU’s most commonly reproduced phallic art, reaching many families in the form of flyers, brochures, and other GVSU promotional materials. In terms of girth and height, it is no more phallic than any other clock tower; instead, its true artistic merit lies in its domed top. If you stand midway up Kirkhof’s handicapped accessibility ramp and gaze at the top of the tower, you’ll notice that the dome is cleft. Erupting from this cleft section is a spire which supports a perfectly spherical droplet of copper. This profound reflection on the origins of human life deserves a few moments of contemplation.

Walk due south until you reach The Connection. Enter the second floor and walk to the glass display case at the end of the hall. Encased is the sculpture “Mulberry Seeds,” a large wooden rod with a bulbous end entering into a narrow eyelet. It’s a piece that creator Walter Fisher justly dedicates “to family, to motherhood and to fatherhood.”

Head east and enter the Glen A. Niemeyer Honors College. Ascend to the second floor and turn to the drinking fountain between the men’s and women’s bathrooms. Above the fountain is a photograph of “The Capitoline Wolf,” a bronze sculpture of a female wolf nursing the infants Romulus and Remus. While the sculpture alone is extraordinary, its placement above the drinking fountain allows it to take on a new significance. As you lower your head to drink the stream of water, it is as if you are entering into a sacred communion with the legendary founders of Rome.

To conclude the Freudian Walking Tour, cut northwest across campus, past the clock tower, to the Commons. Enter the first floor and travel to the base of the staircase that leads to Fresh. Immediately to the right of the stairs is a ceramic sculpture entitled “Post-Consumer Series: Re/Claim.” It depicts a single cucumber rising up from a sea of cherries and teacups. No other work of art on campus depicts such uninhibited sexuality, and it’s a pity that it’s been reduced to decor in a food court.

Take a moment to reflect on your experience. For now, the prevalence of such art remains something of a mystery. Some argue that it’s merely an artistic fluke. Others insist— in the Freudian tradition— that it is a result of a sexually repressed childhood in western Michigan interacting with the self-expressionism of college. Still others suggest it stems from the assumption that all formal representations of genitalia are automatically works of art. Regardless, it has become as much a part of GVSU’s culture as Louie the Laker or manicured lawns.