Campus artwork tells stories to students

Campus artwork tells stories to students

Campus artwork tells stories to students
November 17
23:45 2014

Kayleigh Bywater / Intern Writer

Whether it be a huge sculpture that you can’t miss or a small portrait in a building, different types of art fill UNT, some donated and others created by both current and past students. Many students believe the art is an integral part of campus life.

“I think it is important to have art around campus to keep the creative atmosphere alive,” drawing and painting sophomore Benjamin Statser said. “UNT is a very artistic and creative campus, and I think it would just feel strange walking around campus if those characteristics were not shown.”

Although art seems to be all around, there are many different stories and mysteries behind the pieces students pass everyday.

Buried treasure

One piece of art that has a mysterious history is “The Student” sculpture in front of Chilton Hall.

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According to director of the UNT Art Gallery Tracee Robertson, graduate student Sterling Cook made a marble sculpture of a man with a bare chest and arm in 1940. It was to be placed in front of what used to be the Chilton Hall men’s dorm.

“The sculpture that Cook created was originally a reclining figure holding a book with jeans on and no shirt,” Robertson said. “‘The Student’ was situated on a big plinth, which is a base for a sculpture. This leads many people to wonder how a full body piece of art ended up being just the upper part of the body with an arm.”

When UNT renovated the building in 1969, the statue was buried so workers would not throw it away. However, it disappeared and was not seen again until 1989, when it made a revival during more construction on campus.

Although the lost sculpture had been found, the only portion of it that could be salvaged was the bust. Sculpting student Larry Gentry was able to restore what was left of “The Student” to preserve the art for future students.

The man in the statue

Another piece piquing the curiosity of students is the “Statue of Diego Velázquez” by Constance Whitney Warren.

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Situated between the General Academic Building and the Physics Building, this 10-foot-high statue of a man riding a horse with a paint pallet at the bottom stands as a centerpiece for students to sit around and relax on the grass and benches by it.

However, many students walk by it every day and do not know the history of Velázquez. Born in 1599, the man became the court painter for King Phillip IV of Spain when he was 23 years old, said Will Derusha, associate professor of world languages, literatures, and cultures.

“His aim in Madrid was to rise in the ranks of the bureaucracy and become a knight,” Derusha said. “He wanted to show that a painter was not a craftsman, but it was a noble calling instead.”

Velázquez caught the eye of many famous artists after his death in 1660, including Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. He also inspired Constance Whitney Warren to create the bronze sculpture in 1924.

“By Velázquez being positioned on top of a horse that was not bucking, this represented that artists were, in fact, leaders in society,” Robertson said.

Although the statue was not made to be at UNT, a spot was specifically created for the piece when the Harlan Crow family donated it in 1994.

“It is such a great feeling to know that so many people want to donate statues to be put on to the campus, and this one is a great centerpiece for the university,” Robertson said.

Donations to the campus

The process to donate statues to UNT is not an easy one, Robertson said.

“It basically involves any donor who wants to give us a sculpture,” she said. “The UNT Art in Public Places committee will be notified, and there’s a series of criteria that the piece has to follow. This includes things such as if the piece is high quality, if it makes sense to our collection and most importantly, if it will enhance our campus environment. That is why all of the art on campus is of pretty well-kept.”

Once a piece is donated to the school, the process of getting the art on campus begins.

Larger pieces of artwork require workers, construction of a plinth, heavy lifting and even sometimes machinery. All this can cost quite a bit of money, but Robertson said it was worth it in the end to see the look on the students’ faces when it goes up.

“We have had complications with getting art on the campus. A piece that had to be removed because it had sharp edges and was dangerous, and we even had a piece stolen from us,” she said. “When everything is said and done, though, it feels great to be able to step back and see the beauty before you.”

Art at every corner

There are many other statues and pieces of art on campus that students enjoy. From “The Sustaining Arch” in the Library Mall that commemorates UNT students who died during their time on campus to Gerald Balciar’s “In High Places” eagle statue that encompasses everything it means to be a Mean Green Eagle, Robertson said the art enhances students’ experience on campus.

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“Imagine that your bedroom had absolutely no posters on the walls, bookshelves or colors anywhere,” Robertson said. “Art makes a difference. If there was no art on campus, then students may not feel as strong of a connection with the campus. The art adds to the beauty of nature and creates a sense of belonging at UNT.”

Featured Image: An up close look at “Statue of Diego Velázquez” by Constance Whitney Warren. Photo by Evan McAlister – Staff Photographer

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