OSU Adds Active Art Area

Outdoor space features hammocks, swing and slacklines

America's Healthiest Campus Wellness

On Wednesday, September 9 at 2:30 p.m., Oklahoma State University will dedicate a unique outdoor gathering place for students, faculty, staff and visitors on the Stillwater campus. The area northwest of the Classroom Building features a group hammock, posts for hanging individual hammocks or slacklines, a two-person swing, and stands to display student artwork. The space will be named through a contest at "americashealthiestcampus.okstate.edu/name-space".

"This will be one of the signature pieces of America's Healthiest Campus. We are so grateful to The Merrick Foundation for making this possible. Their continued support advances the improvement of the health and well-being of our students, employees and community."Dr. Suzy Harrington, OSU's chief wellness officer

The Merrick Foundation funded the project with a $50,000 grant, which pushed the organization beyond $1 million in gifts and commitments to the OSU Foundation since 1967. Established in 1948 by Ward S. Merrick Sr., The Merrick Foundation strives to promote a healthier Oklahoma through research, education and awareness, and by supporting charitable organizations and philanthropies.

"The Merrick Foundation feels blessed to have a relationship with OSU that promotes a healthy lifestyle for its students, faculty and staff. OSU has been a great partner and we have seen the benefits of our donations in the improvement of the health of the campus."Frank Merrick, 1978 OSU marketing graduate and Merrick Foundation trustee

Dave Brown, OSU's landscape designer, said this area was created in response to the actions and suggestions of students. The use of hammocks on trees throughout campus was harming the trees by wearing away the bark and weakening the trunk.

"We are very protective of our trees, because they should be here for many, many generations while we bring up the next generation of trees. Some of the students asked us to put up posts where they could use their hammocks, which we did three years ago. Not only were they proven correct about how popular those would be, but they proved that it wasn't nearly enough." Dave Brown, OSU landscape designer

Steve Dobbs, OSU's manager of grounds and landscape services, added, "We had to replace the poles twice because they were used so much that they started bending."

The tree-shaded spot where the posts had been now contains posts for slacklines or up to nine individual hammocks, which visitors can bring from home or rent from the Seretean Wellness Center. The group hammock can hold 20 to 40 people. The area features a view of the iconic Edmon Low Library, including the fountain and lawn. Further enhancing the aesthetics will be art displayed on three permanent stands, with a fourth stand available for temporary use.

"We want to encourage people to be in the outdoor spaces," Brown said. "We are very proud of our campus, and this is way to show it off in a comfortable space."

Nathan Diekelman is coordinator of outdoor adventure within the Department of Wellness. He calls this a place where students can study, relax, make new friends or participate in an outdoor activity such as slacklining.

"This is a usable, friendly, welcoming place. It is an active place in the heart of campus. But as fun as this is, it's a really serious thing. It will have a positive impact on mental health and physical health. It shows that OSU has a real commitment to the lifestyle and culture of not just students, but also faculty and staff."Nathan Diekelman, Outdoor Adventure Coordinator

Brown added, "We wanted to provide a space that meets needs. Maybe this is a go-to study space. Maybe a class uses it when it is available. There are all kinds of options."

Harrington said this area is one more contribution to overall wellness for America's Healthiest Campus.

"It really is remarkable that, thanks to The Merrick Foundation, we were able to do this. They put their trust in us to allow us to do something so fun and creative. They've funded many programs before, and now this is something that is physical and will always be here. Programs come and go, but this is permanent."

For more information, visit americashealthiestcampus.okstate.edu