Campus sculptures reach new heights over summer

Morgan Purvis


Video shot and edited by Michael Herrera

UNF’s campus is known to look and feel a little different during summer. Between the orientation groups, students taking summer classes and kids roaming around during summer camps, the campus also received some updates. Among these were a couple of pieces of art, each one having a different personality and the hard work of a sculpture student behind it. Together, these sculptures attempt to bring just a little more beauty to campus.

“Art is inspiring for everyone,” Mary Ratcliff, junior sculpture major, said. Ratcliff had three pieces installed this summer and shared why UNF should use student art. “It connects people. We’re also building in from the campus which I think is important.”

A recent move to the new sculpture lab on campus has allowed the sculpture program to grow in more ways than ever. At only 1,000 square feet, the old lab in the south end of the Fine Arts Center was not able to accommodate the sculptures students wanted to build.

In the metal shop of the new UNF sculpture lab, the dimensions of the old sculpture lab are taped on the floor to remind the students of the old space they used to work in.  Photo by Michael Herrera
In the metal shop of the new UNF sculpture lab, the dimensions of the old sculpture lab are taped on the floor to remind the students of the old space they used to work in.
Photo by Michael Herrera

The sculpture program officially moved to Building 6 in the spring 2015 semester. Physical Facilities previously used the space before moving to Central Parkway on the north side of campus. With approximately 14,000 square feet, the sculpture program is now able to accomplish more than they ever thought imaginable.

Ratcliff finds the added square feet especially helpful while making her huge pieces.

“We have these massive pieces now that would have never fit anywhere in the old space. We’re very blessed that we have such a space now.”

Upperclassmen in the sculpture program get the chance to propose projects to a committee, which then chooses the students who get to build and install their sculptures on campus. Jenny Hager, associate professor of sculpture, said this is a professional learning opportunity for the students. The committee chose three students last fall to bring their proposals to life and install them on campus this summer.

Alycia Bren, sculpture senior, made the first piece introduced to campus this summer. Bren spent the spring semester building “Above Average,” which now resides in front of Tom and Betty Petway Hall.

2.“Above Average” by senior Alycia Bren sits in front of the College of Education and Human Services.  Photo by Morgan Purvis
2. “Above Average” by senior Alycia Bren sits in front of the College of Education and Human Services.
Photo by Morgan Purvis

“It brings a lot of character to the campus and it’s very inviting,” Bren said, regarding the importance of art on campus. “It gives our campus a very pleasant image.”

Bren searched for something that relates to education and learning, and realized that a paperclip bike rack would be a fun addition to campus. She proposed her idea to the committee in the fall and completed the project over the spring semester after it was chosen.

“I also like that it is a functional piece of art. It’s not just standing there, and I think people will enjoy it,” Bren said.

Mary Ratcliff also had her sculptures installed recently. Not only did she build a bike rack, but she also put together two complementing sculptures that were installed on the outside of the second floor of the library.

“Connection N” and “Connect V” sit on each side of the reading alcove on the second floor. The larger piece, “Connection N” is approximately 18 feet and fills the empty space in the area.

“Since they are for the library, they are inspired by the brain and linking pieces of knowledge together,” Ratcliff said.

5.Mary Ratcliff, sculpture junior, sits next to her piece “Connect V” on the right side of the reading alcove.  Photo by Michael Herrera
5. Mary Ratcliff, sculpture junior, sits next to her piece “Connect V” on the right side of the reading alcove.
Photo by Michael Herrera

“Connection N” is about the state of being connected, while “Connect V” has receptor ends. Ratcliff explained that the pieces are a metaphor of making connections in college with colleagues and professors.

Ratcliff’s other project during the spring semester was “Abstracted Geometry.” The piece is a functional bike rack inspired by artists of all forms and attempts to portray how artists’ minds work. It made itself at home in front of the Fine Arts Center by the garage.

“I just really wanted a nice pop of color and a statement piece,” Ratcliff said. “I always want a statement piece.”

Installations by art students have not stopped yet, as another piece is coming to campus soon. Michael Quatromoni, sculpture senior, is building a bench that will be installed on the concrete slab already visible in front of J. Brooks Brown Hall, beside the pond. He has been working on the piece since the beginning of the year and expects it to be installed in the next few weeks.

Inspired by his love for the plant world, Quatromoni titled his piece “Celtis occidentalis” which is the scientific name of the common hackberry tree.  Quatromoni wanted to allow people interact with a piece of nature in a different way, so he acquired a Celtis occidentalis tree from a friend and cut it into segments that are laid flat on the base of the bench.

“The piece was basically made so the viewer is forced into kind of a strange interaction with a tree. Instead of going and sitting underneath it or climbing it, you are now sitting on it and can see numerous parts of it,” Quatromoni said.

Michael Quatromoni's piece, “Celtis occidentalis,” will be installed in front of the College of Health within the next few weeks.
Michael Quatromoni’s piece, “Celtis occidentalis,” will be installed in front of the College of Health within the next few weeks.
Photo by Morgan Purvis

An irrigated planter will also be featured in the middle of the bench. Quatromoni explained that he will work with Charles Hubbuch, assistant director of Physical Facilities in charge of landscape and grounds, to find out what plants will be most suitable in the planter.

These new sculptures are just a small part of the art presence on campus. Lance Vickery, adjunct professor of sculpture, said he has heard from multiple people about the positive impact of campus art. Vickery said pieces like sculptures are a point of pride that people take from UNF.

“People are paying attention to what’s going on,” Hager said. “I hope [art] spreads and it’s contagious. I hope it spreads to the rest of Jacksonville.”

No one is more excited about the art than the artists. Professors Hager and Vickery watch the process from beginning to end and explain that when the pieces are installed on campus, the students are very happy with the overall experience.

“Leaving a legacy, like leaving something behind after you graduate,” Hager said. “Something that you can come and visit that is special on campus is a really big deal.”

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