Public Art Brings Campus Traditions to Light

The sculptures are lit from within with colorful LED lights and use cutout symbols that cast intricate shadows and portray symbols and icons relating to Texas Tech and campus life.

Texas Tech University System officials and guests will celebrate at 7 p.m. tonight (Aug. 29) the newest and brightest addition to its public art program, Texas Rising.

Located in the north courtyard outside of the new West Village housing complex (1700 Texas Tech Parkway), stainless steel sculptures depict stars emerging from the ground, the largest standing 18-feet tall.

The sculptures are lit from within with colorful LED lights and use cutout symbols that cast intricate shadows and portray symbols and icons relating to Texas Tech and campus life.

Artists Joe O’Connell and Blessing Hancock of Tucson, Arizona. teamed up to create the pieces and said they were inspired by the school spirit at Texas Tech.

“My first several visits to campus included a game day Friday and Halloween,” Hancock said. “The atmosphere was electric and offered an invaluable education into the character of this university and its students. Texas Rising reflects these impressions of campus life and how they are a dynamic and fundamental aspect of the student experience. The sculpture draws inspiration from the strong Texas Tech lineage and traditions that are evident throughout campus.”

O’Connell said that although the cutouts portray invaluable rituals of students, the meaning of the sculptures goes beyond that.

“We wanted to play on the idea of rising growth,” he said. “As a university develops or a student goes through the college experience, the way the pieces rise out of the ground express the idea of stars rising up – slowly and with work. The icons are metaphors for knowledge and allow the pieces to root the university in its physical and metaphorical setting.”

One of the pieces incorporates touch sensors that allow the color of the lights to be changed, encouraging viewers to interact with the sculpture. Both artists said they hope the pieces will be a gathering place for students and a place people will want to visit again and again.

“I like to have pieces with multiple layers of meaning,” O’Connell said. “Texas Rising will have a different meaning from 50 feet away than from 10 feet away and will give a different perspective each time you visit.”

Visitors to the sculptures are encouraged to look for “secret symbols” including a Double-T, victory bell and an old-fashioned farm windmill.

Hancock and O’Connell have created several public artworks for clients in North America, Europe, and Asia throughout their careers, including several projects in Texas. The artists were selected from 59 applicants for the $485,000 project as part of the TTU System Public Art Program.

The TTU System's Public Art Program was initiated by the Board of Regents in 1998 as an investment in the campus environments at each of its institutions. Through the program, public artworks are funded using one percent of the estimated total cost of each new major capital project. Since then, 98 items created by some of today’s leading artists have been added to the TTU System’s campuses.

About the Texas Tech University System

The Texas Tech University System is one of the top public university systems in the state of Texas, consisting of four component institutions—Texas Tech University, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Angelo State University and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso—and operating at 12 academic sites and centers.  Headquartered in Lubbock, Texas, the TTU System has an annual operating budget of $1.7 billion and approximately 17,000 employees focused on advancing higher education, health care, research and outreach.

In 2013, the TTU System’s endowment passed $1 billion, total research expenditures were approximately $200 million and total enrollment exceeded 44,000 students. Whether it’s contributing billions of dollars annually in economic impact or being the only system in Texas to house an academic institution, law school, and medical school at the same location, the TTU System continues to prove that anything is possible.

CONTACT: Emily Wilkinson, public art manager, Office of Facilities, Planning and Construction, Texas Tech University System, (806) 742-2116,