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A dose of campus culture

Art is not limited to framed pictures hanging in a gallery. In fact, many students live among art every day.

Artistic sculptures, instillations, fountains and seating areas decorate the University’s campus. The University’s public art is viewed daily but is rarely understood since the plaques on the pieces only display the title, artist and year of creation.

Public art on campus is a requirement by the Art and State Building Administration’s Division of Cultural Affairs, said Margaret Miller, professor and director of the Institute of Research and Art-Art Museum and Graphic Studio. Exactly .5 percent of new building funds are required by the division to be used on art purchases, she said.

Miller said as one of the nation’s top 10 university public art programs, USF strives to choose art that is uplifting and functional for public use. Many students are unfamiliar with what the art represents, and the public art program wants to inform students of the inspiration behind each piece, she said.

Here are just six of the many artworks at USF, each with its own story to tell.


‘Earth and Sky Garden’ by Dale Eldred, 1994

This piece makes use of natural light in the College of Public Health atrium.

Panels – made of etched metal with 150 lines per square inch – diffract sunlight into a rainbow of color against the building and appear to change with the sun’s motion. The angled panels along the walls toward skylights give viewers feelings of passing time as light reflects differently depending on the sun’s and viewers’ positions.

Five cones covered in pure pigment are individually encased in the lobby to represent the color spectrum. Another cone resting on stone and a long slender pendulum suspended above it also represents Eldred’s vision.

Unfortunately, Eldred did not live to complete the project, but his widow Roberta Lord finished it. Although the most notable features of this piece are the cascades of rainbows diffracted in sunlight, the artwork is enjoyed day or night.

‘Sanctuary’ by Elyn Zimmerman, 1991

“Sanctuary” was the first piece of contemporary art in the University’s public art program, said Elyn Zimmerman. This serene outdoor space is a functional work located outside the the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute cafeteria.

A winding walkway leads visitors to a sitting area complete with columns, rock formations, seating, a pond and running water.

After spending the previous year in medical facilities with her ill father, Zimmerman was inspired to create an outdoor plaza for visitors to find some relief. It was designed to be a self-contained and semi-enclosed space where people could go to heal, she said.

“I wanted to give them a space to get back in touch with nature in a healing, helpful place,” Zimmerman said.

The project took five years to plan and two years to complete. “Sanctuary” was built simultaneously with the Moffitt center, and Zimmerman was inspired to incorporate the columns, colors and concrete she observed during construction into her design.

‘Maze 2000′ by Alice Aycock, 2002

At first glance, “Maze 2000” looks like a whirlwind of aluminum. The towering outdoor piece is located near the Psychology and Communication Sciences and Disorders building.

The artworks spiral and circular form represents movement in whirlwind hurricane vortexes, spiraling staircases, the composition of rose petals and dramatic amphitheaters, according to the University’s public art Web site.

‘Unspecific Gravity’ by Doug Hollis, 1998

This sprawling project is often misunderstood and ignored by passing students. Located near the math and physics buildings, is includes a modern sculpture, pond and seating that represent elements in the periodic table.

Doug Hollis found inspiration by speaking to biomedical scientists and became very interested in the ball and stick computer models of scientific matter the human eye cannot see.

The artwork’s central element is a copper fountain designed to replicate H2O water molecules. The fountain is being refurbished but originally consisted of a pond and an irrigation system that misted nearby plant life, Hollis said.

The benches are specifically arranged near the fountain so that they symbolize components of scientific form: such as sodium and chloride, which together creates salt, Hollis said.

These seats are made of Terrazzo and represent the protons and neutrons that compose various elements.

‘Solar Rotary’ by Nancy Holt, 1995

“Solar Rotary” is one of the more noticeable pieces of public art, as it is located between the Business Administration building and Cooper Hall and must be passed to reach the Communications and Information Sciences buliding.

The 20-foot tall aluminum structure is enclosed in a circular plaza that serves as a seating area for passing students.

The artwork was designed so that at solar noon during the summer solstice, the sun will shine directly through the center circle and cast a ring of sunlight on the center seat. The plaza has five other points, marked by plaques, that are spotlighted by the sun at a specific time on a certain day every year.

Outside of the circular plaza, four benches mark the fundamental coordinates of North, South, East and West.

‘Tampa Wind’ by Stacy Levy, 2009

The most recent addition to the art program is “Tampa Wind” – a glittering piece located on the side of the Natural and Environmental Sciences facility that was inspired by the form of the Hillsborough River, said Stacy Levy.

“I am very interested in water versus wind and how the water and the atmosphere share the same fluid movements,” she said.

The artwork is comprised of 2,000 high-grade stainless steel discs in their natural polished state. The discs pivot on a pin and are engineered to allow maximum movement in the wind.

“(It’s) a pointillist painting that’s always changing by collaborating with nature,” Levy said. “The wind really makes this piece.”