UT students shouldn’t take campus art for granted

Alyssa Neilson

In October of this year, the University’s Landmarks Public Art Program opened its newest installation, a “Skyspace” by the artist James Turrell titled “The Color Inside.”

Turrell, an American artist whose mind-bending use of space and light has been known to induce vertigo, is most famous for creating these delicate Skyspaces, which are spaces specially crafted to allow visitors to stare up at the sky. 

Landmarks, on the other hand, is not nearly as famous as the works it brings to campus. The public art program was launched by the University in 2008. As part of the program, a relationship between UT and the Metropolitan Museum of Art was established, which allowed for the long-term loans of a total of 28 works of art now installed throughout campus.

How many students pause their daily commute to soak up the messages within these works of art? The Skyspace’s sunset light sequence, which requires reservations to be viewed, is booked through Nov. 24, indicating that at least some students are taking an interest in the new Turrell piece. But few students take advantage of the artwork already out on campus. 

Strategically placed throughout campus’ most trafficked areas, the pieces of art in the Landmarks collection were created by some of the world’s most notable contemporary artists and are seen by thousands of people a day. The least we could do is take a moment to appreciate them. 

Not only do these pieces add vibrancy to campus, but each work of art also aims to serve as an outside-the-classroom educational tool for both students and campus visitors. According to Anastasia Colombo, the program’s marketing coordinator, James Turrell’s Skyspace can appeal to multiple educational disciplines such as engineering, art, anthropology, architecture and astronomy. “Each work of artistic and intellectual merit must contribute to a cohesive vision that provides a continuing source of knowledge, inspiration and pride,” Colombo said. 

Students also shouldn’t forget that the public display of such aesthetically pleasing artwork is costly. James Turrell’s Skyspace is most likely the University’s most ambitious art project to date. According to an article in the Texan, the Skyspace cost the University $1.5 million in construction costs alone.

According to Landmarks’ assistant director Nia Mason, the works in the Landmarks Collection are “curated by a group of expert advisors who select each artist with the goal of having a cohesive, educational collection that can be really looked to as an educational resource.”

As UT continues to make a great effort to create an art-centered campus, students should take the time to stop and appreciate what this artwork can teach them. If students continue to just aimlessly pass the sculptures on campus, the University’s ambitious spending on these projects will be in vain.  

 Neilson is a public relations junior from Houston.