“Skyspace” by James Turrel under construction for students in the SAC

Christine Ayala

Relaxing in between classes will soon be an experience students can enjoy through a million-dollar art piece.

A skyspace is currently under construction on the roof of the Student Activity Center. James Turrell, an artist who emphasizes light, designed the skyspace, which is a circular enclosed area made of plaster, with an opening at the top surrounded by LED lights to view the sky. The area will be lined with reclined benches that allow easy viewing of the Texas sky. The piece is projected to open in October 2013.

Jennifer Modesett, the external affairs coordinator for Landmarks, the collection of public arts at UT, said the University commissioned the skyspace by Turrell because of student requests for a quiet reflection space.

“Turrell is one of the most influential contemporary artists today,” Modesett said. “Students wanted some type of meditation space in the SAC, and the skyspace would be a space for that. We want students to know, when it opens, what a privilege it is to have a Turrell installation.”

Landmarks focuses on bringing modern and contemporary art to campus, including the red-orange steel sculpture by Mark di Suvero along Dean Keaton Street named “Clock Knot.” 

UT is part of the Art in Public Places program, in which the University allocates 1 to 2 percent of the cost of new construction or major renovation to academic teaching and research facilities, administrative or any general purpose building on campus for artwork. The skyspace is funded by 1 percent of the budget cost of both the SAC and the adjacent Liberal Arts Building, at roughly $1.5 million. 

Studio art senior Randi Mabry said she has previously seen other Turrell skyspaces and said the artwork gives the viewer a new perspective of something ordinary.

“The experience of being in the space is extremely calming,” Mabry said. “It’s a space that focuses your attention at the sky more than lying down at a park does. The sky sliced into a small [space] highlights its beauty and many faces that we usually take for granted. I am really excited that such an installation is going to be at UT. Turrell’s spaces are accessible to anybody who wanders into one, even those who are not familiar with contemporary art.”

Music junior Austin Ferguson said the additional space for relaxation helps to meet student needs and is well placed in the SAC, a building which owes its construction to student initiatives.

“As modern in design as the building is, any additional room for an art installation in it is a fantastic idea and will draw students even more toward using the building, which is precisely what it was designed to do,” Ferguson said.

Published on February 4, 2013 as "SAC skyspace art piece meets student requests".