Art Around Columbia: “Taking the Plunge”


Taking the Plunge front

Isabel Gompper

The Activity and Recreation Center (ARC) is loved by many who live in Columbia, including athletes and children alike. The center opened in 2002 and is run through Columbia Parks and Recreation.
As you enter the ARC you will see a central information desk that connects to all the equipment rooms and many gyms. This includes multiple basketball courts, a massive swimming pool, a waterpark with a lazy river and triple-loop slide, as well as additional swimming lanes for workouts. There is an upstairs section that connects with a work out area and a running /walking track.
Besides the buzz of people and the blast of chlorine as you walk into the building, what really is memorable is the giant overhead diving sculpture. Titled “Taking the Plunge,” the work features a 14-foot silver-leafed (which is a type of crafting material) figure diving through a 15-foot fiberglass ripple suspended overhead in the lobby. The artist Norman Courtney created the publicly commissioned work for the ARC through the city’s Percent for Art program. This program sets aside 1% of the cost of new projects or renovations for site specific public art. Other examples include the Cherry Street parking garage and the Look Out Point sculptures at Stephen’s Lake Park.
The diving sculpture is such a beautiful piece and is so well-crafted that even as a child I could not stop looking at it. Most of the time while I waited for my mother to sign us into the gym, I would stand with my neck cranked back as I stared at the sculpture, blood rushing into my head. I think that the piece itself is almost an inspiration to athletes coming in to the recreational center. The sculpting of the muscles and the perfect posture and form of the diving figure emphasizes the fitness of the athlete featured in the work, striking a positive feeling into athletes passing underneath it. The blue color of the work represents water, the primary subject of the piece. The rippling fiberglass that surrounds the figure gives motion and life to the diver as well as the sense of water moving.