It’s not hard to imagine
why many view the University of North Florida grounds as a work of art. An
environmentally beautiful campus nestled within a 1,381 acre natural preserve,
the University is as picturesque as a Monet and as colorful as a Pollock.
The campus’ own inherent
beauty has been enhanced even further in recent years by the University’s
commitment to the acquisition and installation of works of art from celebrated
artists, as well as pieces created by students and faculty. UNF boasts a
thriving permanent collection, two different art galleries featuring rotating
assortments of varied works and a wide array of statues, sculptures and
installations that liven up the campus environment. Additionally, there is a committed
group of faculty and students who have contributed greatly to the University’s position
as one of the most artistically diverse institutions in the State University
Take a look at UNF’s dynamic
assortment of artistic offerings.
racks, campus sculptures and ZOOLights
From giant ducks to
artistic bike racks, sculpture students at UNF have been pushing the envelope
when it comes to campus art installations.
by the husband and wife team of Lance Vickery and Jenny Hager-Vickery, the UNF sculpture professors have
inspired their students to let their minds run free with all of the creative
possibilities available right on campus. Some functional pieces are a quartet
of bike racks with their own unique motifs: blades of grass, bamboo poles, an
electrical cord and a fish. Wandy Griggs’ “Cutting Edge” has the
appearance of abstract blades of painted a bright, lime green. She said her
work on the project took her all the way from the creative stage to the
installation process and has been truly informative as she prepares to delve
into the professional art world.
“We did everything — from coming up with the
initial idea, creating the maquettes, designing the work and handling the
construction,” Griggs said. “It’s a good feeling to be a student and have your
artwork being installed on campus and be of use for years to come.”
popular addition to campus was a 10
feet tall, bright yellow duck who liked to drift through his days on one of the
myriad campus lakes. Sgt. Quackers, a massive floating fiberglass and Styrofoam
sculpture created by students from Hager-Vickery’s Enlivened Spaces class, was
found sunning himself in the lake between the Library and the Coggin College of Business. The fowl campus guest first made an appearance April 1, and he’s been
spotted across the city — most notably in Hemming Plaza during the the first
One Spark crowdfunding festival in downtown Jacksonville. He has since
graduated from UNF and is “working” for Duckie’s Car Wash on Baymeadows as
duck-rector of marketing.
The art students who crafted the duck — Mark Ewing,
Erica Mendoza, Nick Dunlop, Katrina Hess and Maggie Bevis — were inspired to
create Sgt. Quackers after a series of student pitch meetings for projects that
could be produced collaboratively. Ewing said he expected that his idea for a
big, yellow duck would raise some eyebrows, but it soon became clear that UNF’s
natural environment was the right home for Sgt. Quackers.
“We received so much awesome feedback about him,”
Ewing said. “He became really popular on campus really quickly.”
Quackers also took a brief holiday vacation to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens for the annual ZOOLights event. Works from UNF art faculty and students were featured throughout
December 2013 as more than 50,000
visitors experienced the holiday festivities. They were greeted by large, student-designed,
wire-frame sculptures of varying shapes laden with lights and strung up
throughout the Zoo. Other students built sculptures designed to correspond to
particular exhibits — such as a light-up rat installation that was placed in
front of the Zoo’s capybara exhibit and an illuminated tiger by senior Kyle
Newsome that was installed near the brand-new tiger exhibit.
“It was great to
have this opportunity from the perspective of a student who is trying to get
his work out there as much as possible,” Newsome said. “A lot of people saw
what I can do, and I have some more examples of my work that I can use to land
also boasts a large outdoor collection of sculptures.
One of the largest is John Henry’s “Axiom,” a 35-foot high and 20-foot wide
sculpture that weighs 18 tons and is made of steel and painted in safety red
enamel. It sits on the roundabout near Lot 18. It was donated to the UNF by
alumnus and Foundation Board Member Dr. Shyam Paryani, Dr. Walter Scott and
Cleve Scarbrough in honor of the University’s 40th anniversary.
UNF Art and Design Associate Professor Nofa Dixon has done much over the years to beautify
existing parts of campus with the help of her students. Dixon and dozens of
students who enrolled in her special topics class over the years have designed
four tiled murals located across campus and four ornately designed mosaics on
structural columns located in the Alumni Square courtyard
between Frederick H. Schultz Hall and Founders Hall. Dixon said the inspiration
for her campus beautification projects came from her regular walks around
campus — she couldn’t help but notice blank, concrete surfaces that could be
embellished with a little artistic flare.
More than a dozen students
painstakingly installed four detailed mosaics on four 24-foot columns around
Alumni Square during the course of three semesters. The First Coast inspired
the subject matter for the mosaics, which included Jacksonville’s skyline, a
beach, a swamp and a hurricane,
Next up was an even more interesting
artistic challenge — creating a trio of wall murals illustrating the life cycle
of a wild osprey, from birth to nest building to flight. The first wall, depicting an
osprey nest with three eggs, was designed and created in 2011 at Dixon’s home
studio in Avondale. There wasn’t enough studio space on campus to house the
more than 300 tiles needed for installation, so she stored them herself.
Dixon and an academically diverse group
of students met several times each week to paint, glaze, fire and cut the
individual tiles needed to construct the large nest mosaic designed especially
for the wall of the English Hall, directly across from Outtakes. The other two
mosaics were installed in 2013 on the second floor of Founders Hall and at the
Dixon’s student Jlll Olmo worked on the
construction and installation of the third mural. She said the process was a
helpful exercise in learning the intricacies of large-scale art projects.
“This was such a huge undertaking that really
opened up our eyes about how meticulous we need to be as artists,” Olmo said.
“We had to catalogue each piece and put it where it needed to go. One wrong
piece and everything was out of order. With 300 pieces, that’s a challenge, and
we learned how to be precise and focused in our approach.”
Dixon and her class installed one more
mural in 2013 — this time at the request of the staff of the new Student Wellness Center. The interior of the building has been enlivened with a vibrant
30-foot-wide, 15-foot-high mural of the Florida sky, the largest on-campus
mural installed by Dixon and her students.
“These projects have really helped
these students take ownership of their work and positively impact the campus at
the same time,” Dixon said. “Even once they graduate, their work will live on.
That’s a great feeling as an artist.”
University's permanent art collection has grown to 475 works since 1988, said Amara
McMann, former coordinator of UNF's art galleries. The first addition, Linda
Howard's untitled sculpture that resembles strands of DNA rendered in brushed
aluminum, was installed near the stairwell of the John E. Matthews Jr. Computer Science Building that year, signaling the beginning of UNF's wide-ranging
acquisition of different pieces. During that span of time, multiple University
supporters, community members and organizations have helped grow this stunning
The University of North Florida Gallery of Art, which was founded in 1981, is the focal point for the
display of these pieces. Located in the heart of campus next to the Peace Plaza
in Founders Hall, the UNF Gallery exhibits student and faculty work on a
rotating basis and catalogues and exhibits works from the University’s
said a gift from Wells Fargo in 2009 has been one of the largest contributions
to the University’s art catalogue.
The company donated 340 pieces of art valued at $156,000. The Art and Design
faculty have also used the pieces as teaching tools. The works range from contemporary pieces to portraits
from the 1600s and include a diverse array of sculptures, prints, graphic
design works and paintings.
donation of these works really opened things up for us," McMann said.
"We can pick and chose what we want to display. We have so much to
showcase, and the gallery only features 40 to 50 pieces on a rotating basis,
that we started adding pieces everywhere around campus — indoor and outdoor.
The campus’ demand for art has really grown organically over the years."
meet the request for art in different locations, McMann initiated an art on
campus loan program, which contributed different pieces from the permanent
collection for inclusion in conference rooms, interior public spaces, offices
and hallways. The program was initiated in September, and already 75 different
pieces have been made available for installation in different places across
not just about having a gallery,” she said. “This loan program allows us to get
the word out about UNF’s permanent collection and strengthens the awareness
that UNF is ahead-of-the-curve when it comes to art on campus.”
pieces have been displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in downtown
Jacksonville, a cultural resource of UNF.
MOCA Jacksonville was acquired by and
became a cultural resource of UNF in 2009, extending the University’s presence
in the Northeast Florida arts community into the heart of downtown
Jacksonville. The union of MOCA
Jacksonville and UNF has allowed the Museum to follow through on its mission to
educate the regional community about the cultural and intellectual history of
contemporary art. It has become a fertile display ground for mid-career and
emerging artists through its acclaimed Project
Atrium series, the highlight of which is the Museum’s 40-foot high Haskell
Gallery. Project Atrium gives these hand-selected artists access to the space
to install their own site-specific and site-sensitive installations. The unique
project caught the attention of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
last year, leading to a $75,000 grant from the foundation for the next two
years to support the series. It was the only museum in the southeast to receive
such a grant.
addition to Project Atrium, the Museum has featured
public programs and works by multiple UNF faculty members and students. The UNF
Gallery located at MOCA is curated by the
Museum’s staff in collaboration with the University’s Department of Art and
Design faculty and has exhibited a diverse cross-section of national and
international contemporary artists while providing educational programming,
lectures, workshops and conferences for the entire Northeast Florida region.
in Peace Plaza
UNF’s artistic spirit has
also helped to promote the philosophies of some of history’s most heralded
humanitarians through the installation of two bronze statues in Peace Plaza, the tranquil pathway between Founders Hall and J.J.
Bronze statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. stand at either end of the plaza, offering the campus
community an opportunity to remember the teachings of these civil rights
Memorial Society donated Gandhi’s likeness to the University in 2006. The 8-foot-tall, 1,500-pound bronze statue was created by famed Indian sculptor Jasu Shilpi. Following
in the footsteps of his philosophical mentor, a similar statue of Martin Luther
King Jr., also crafted by Shilpi, was installed in 2012 mere feet from Gandhi.
The Gandhi statue was the first sculpture of the famed humanitarian to be
featured on a Florida university campus.Dr. Oupa Seane, director of UNF’s InterculturalCenter for PEACE, said the planning for the statues was initiated
by Dr. Mauricio Gonzalez, vice president for Student and International Affairs. He said the hope was to promote a spirit of peace
and goodwill right in the center of campus.
spirit and character that we as a campus community wish to impart to our
students and everyone else who becomes a part of our family,” Seane said. The
location has since become a place for meditation and reflection on campus.
Quite soon, there will be a new addition to the Plaza — a functional piece of art called Thoreau's Table. The concrete work of art, which will be installed in the near future, is meant to be used by students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus for reflection, study, gatherings or even eating lunch. The piece of art is part of project headed by English Professor Jason Mauro and celebrates the life and works of acclaimed writer Henry David Thoreau.
in the Library
addition to the University’s permanent collection, the Thomas G. Carpenter Library has amassed an assortment of works worthy of
prominent display. The Art in the Library exhibition has grown quickly into a cultural force,
featuring almost 150 different pieces from scores of artists based in and
around Northeast Florida.
Shirley Hallblade retired in July, but her time
as dean of the Library allowed her to oversee much of the exhibition’s growth.
She said the collection was created to spotlight some of the best works by
noted Northeast Florida artists and is a collaboration
between UNF’s Visual Arts Department and the Thomas G. Carpenter Library Dean’s
Leadership Council, as facilitated by 2009 UNF alumni Jennifer Jones, the
former president of R. Roberts Gallery. When the collection debuted June 2013,
many students and Library visitors were intrigued by the fact that the art was
installed on nearly every open wall surface instead of being tucked away in a
lightly trafficked gallery in the back of the building.
“We made the decision to put the art up throughout
the Library to boost its visibility,” Hallblade said. “The University hasn’t
acquired these pieces for them to be tucked away and forgotten about. They
should be displayed and appreciated by the campus community.”
Lufrano Intercultural Gallery
The Lufrano Gallery opened in 2009 in the second floor of the Student Union
building thanks to a generous gift from Drs. Anne and Robert Lufrano. The
Gallery includes a dedicated space for traveling art shows and fulfills the
University’s mission of offering high caliber art exhibits and
educational programs for students, faculty, and staff through the presentation
of works that represent the institution’s values. UNF’s Department of Art and Design Chair Dr. Debra Murphy has
curated many previous Lufrano exhibitions, and she said the works chosen for
the space are often topical in nature and designed to push past the status quo.
Gallery’s mission is to address social issues and enlighten those who see these
works,” Murphy. “Everything that we’ve displayed is both an artistic and
education contribution to the campus.”
Art in Buildings
of the buildings on campus also contain special pieces to help beautify the
spaces and bring art to the students, faculty and staff where they study, work
St. Augustine sculptor and glass
blower Thomas Long has had “Wellspring,” 87 pieces of hand-blown glass spanning
more than 100 feet of the Biological Sciences Building.
“A wellspring, it’s where ideas take place and
are shared,” he said. “It’s like a river. That’s what causes the ideas to move
forward, join together and come apart into new ideas or currents. I was excited
for the opportunity to propose this element in a large-scale sculpture in such
a fantastic building. I hope that it brings inspiration to the students, faculty
and visitors to the UNF campus.”
Eisen and her late husband Saul have donated more than 15 prints and paintings
to the Department of Art and Design to be used for educational purposes. They
wanted students to be able to see truly good artwork up close and analyze the
techniques and compositions used in different styles and periods.
Karabinis, assistant professor of photography and art history, said the prints
and paintings are a significant boost to the mission of the program. “The Eisens have been great supporters of our
program, and their generous gift has been of immediate value to art students,”
Allen, a UNF Foundation Board member and longtime UNF supporter, donated a 48-
by 72-inch piece titled “Jazz II” to the University in 2009 that he painted
using brilliant colors and geometric shapes. “My paintings usually visually
embody how I want to see the world forever,” he said. “They are vast in size,
vibrant in color and vicarious in interpretation.” The painting is housed in
the Student Union West.
the art on campus, like Allen’s piece, represents some part of the University,
its people or its history.
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