The roads to graduation for 7,122 students at the May 11 IUPUI commencement differ tremendously. Some left home half-a-planet away to study here; many others earned their degrees without having to leave beautiful and bustling Indianapolis.
A senior about to graduate, Shelby Lahne was born and raised in Pleasant View, Indiana, and went to high school in Fairland, population 315. She commuted 30 to 40 minutes to classes daily. While home is only a county away, her experience is another world from the downtown Indianapolis campus, which is where she earned a degree in sculpture from the Herron School of Art and Design. Pleasant View consists of an offramp from I-74 east, a gas station and a handful of roads with quaint houses on large plots of land.
While most of her classmates weren’t raised in small-town Indiana, it has fueled her art in terms of direction and materials.
“I think being from a small town but going to school in the big city gives me a different perspective on things,” said Lahne, whose high school graduating class was about 100 students.
Thousands of IUPUI students, staff and faculty have seen — and walked under — a recent commission of Lahne’s: “Nests” has hung in the second-floor lobby of University Library since the fall, and it will continue to show for another year. The four large constructions sway quietly by thick rope. That rope is also wrapped around each nest made of burlap over a steel, egg-shaped understructure.
“Over the steel rods, there is a layer of chicken wire, and over that is a layer of carpet padding,” Lahne revealed. “I got the idea from looking at weaver bird nests. Instead of cup-shaped nests, they create dome-shaped nests with just one little hole in them. They make them in large groups for protection purposes.
“I thought that was very interesting because it’s like the library itself — everyone comes here. We may all be doing our own thing, but we’re still in here together.”
Following “Nests,” Lahne continued with the suspension theme in her work. Ropes, pulleys and the defiance of gravity were utilized in most pieces.
“I’ve used a lot of concrete and cinder blocks,” Lahne said. “They all have to do with weight, tension and balance.
“A lot of my ideas come from different building materials, like metal, concrete and rope. Out in the country, you just find these things in someone’s yard or their barn. They are typically thought of as junk or scrap, but the materials seem to have a story to them.”
Before her years at IUPUI, Lahne earned an associate degree in art therapy from Vincennes University. She expected to pursue the field at IUPUI, but she found a better fit in Herron’s sculpture program, which is headquartered in the Eskenazi Fine Arts Center. Lahne’s recent pieces have shown well in Herron galleries and classrooms, and the young artist will pursue a graduate degree in sculpture.
As she looks for her next stop along her academic journey, Lahne must decide what to do with her two beloved pets. An option would be finding a farm for Peanut and Crackerjack while she continues her studies.
Like it has for countless young Hoosiers, 4-H Club became a big part of Lahne’s high school years when a friend roped her into showing goats for the Shelby County Fair. Not getting attached to your show animals is a rite of passage for many 4-H kids. Lahne was, however, able to rescue a pair of goats from slaughter. First was Peanut. He was kept at her grandfather’s house just outside of the town limits. Since a solitary goat is an unhappy one, Crackerjack, a pygmy mix, was welcomed into the herd. The smaller, younger goat was another 4-H animal that is now enjoying a retirement full of fresh alfalfa hay, more than an acre of lawn with delicious grass and jelly beans for treats.
Lahne constructed a pen and a small barn for her pets. It’s true that the goats are eating machines, but they don’t eat cans or other items meant for the recycling bins. But they will decimate any kind of yard waste with haste.
“They’re similar to a dog,” Lahne said of her goats. “They always follow me around. If I have them out, they’re always where I am, and whatever I’m trying to do, they’re always in the way. Peanut wants to be petted all the time.”
Lahne has shown numerous pictures and videos of Peanut, a Boer breed now weighing in at 200 pounds, and Crackerjack, who is now almost 100 pounds, to her classmates.
“Everyone at the sculpture building wants me to bring them in,” said Lahne, with a laugh. “That would be impossible to do. If you try to pet Crackerjack, he’ll think you’re playing and try to headbutt you.”
Small-town living inspired Herron sculpture graduate Shelby Lahne to achieve commissions, goats and commencement. Video by Tim Brouk, Indiana University