Public Displays of Creativity

One of the country’s finest public art collections dots Texas Tech’s landscape.

"Comma," by Po Shu Wang, is one of the works of 44 artists that can be seen around campus as part of the University Public Art Collection. Click to enlarge.
Public art at Texas Tech takes many forms: massive granite arches, giant photomurals, delicate iron work and whimsical cartoon-like sculptures. “The University Public Art Committee has focused on building an impressive collection of works from some of the biggest names in the art world,” said Mike Ellicott, vice chancellor for Facilities Planning and Construction. “The pieces represent a variety of styles, media and images.” Despite the quality of the works and the fame of the artists, Ellicott knows that not everyone will like every piece of art chosen for the collection. “We get complaints and compliments about almost every piece,” he said. “And that’s OK. Art is meant to make people think. When you consider that this collection is part of a university, it’s appropriate that the works make people stop and think and talk about what it means.” For Cecilia Carter Browne, the woman who directed the public art program for more than six years, conversation and debate means the art is a success.

Stimulating "Artistic" Differences

“Public art is like learning a foreign language,” she said. “You don’t always immediately comprehend what you are viewing or what the artist is trying to convey. But time and exposure stimulates thinking among the viewers.” Where better than a university to place art work that triggers discussion and fosters critical and creative thinking. “A dynamic public art collection is perfect for a university setting,” Carter Browne said. “I believe research institutions such as Texas Tech must encourage people to think outside the proverbial box. That is how novel solutions to research problems are devised.”

An Impressive Collection

There are more than 350 public art programs in the U.S., 11 in Texas with four at universities. Texas Tech’s public art program is only a decade old, begun in 1998, yet it has grown into one of the best in the country with Public Art Review ranking it as one of the top 10 university programs in the country. Texas Tech’s public art collection includes works of art in a variety of media--sculpture, photographs, glass, paintings and ceramics--a collection that impresses even the artists. “Texas Tech has already passed other universities,” said Jesus Moroles, whose giant granite sculptures are featured along the Engineering Key and near the Experimental Sciences Building. “It’s really an example to be shown everywhere. People will take notice of Lubbock because of the collection.” “In contrast to some other major universities who only invite the usual suspects, Texas Tech has commissioned a significant roster of artists of great range to create a rich program,” said Mike Mandel, who created the mammoth photorealistic mosaics in Jones AT&T Stadium. The artists in the collection are well-known and have work displayed in major museums. Moroles’ work can be seen in the E.F. Hutton/CBS Plaza in New York City, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum. Mandel’s commissions include a wall for the Atlanta Federal Center and for the San Francisco International Airport. Other artists have work represented in such university collections as Harvard and museums such as the New York Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim. The collection is made up of work from 44 different artists and is placed across the Texas Tech University campus and on the Health Sciences Center campuses in Lubbock, El Paso, Amarillo and the Permian Basin.

An Artistic Investment

The process of selecting public art begins as each new facility is approved for construction. The Office of Facilities Planning and Construction, people who will use the building, the 18-person University Public Art Committee and the architects all work together to find the perfect piece of art to fit the mission of the program and to reflect something of its environment. Texas Tech allocates one percent of the estimated total cost of each new capital project that exceeds $500,000 for public art. Another one percent is set aside for landscape enhancements. Stroll around Texas Tech. Pat the giant black bulls outside the Animal and Food Sciences Building. Witness the West Texas sky as framed by Morales’ granite portals. Contemplate the message in the Tornado of Ideas outside the Student Union Building. Find something that inspires or challenges you.

See the Collection

Guided tours of Texas Tech’s Public Art Collection are available. Or take a self-guided walking tour of the collection in an hour or two.

Click to enlarge

"Tornado of Ideas" by Tom Otterness

"Square Spiral Arch" by Jesus Moroles

"Wind River" by Deborah Butterfield

Photos by Artie Limmer

Featured Video

Watch Po Shu Wang describe his creation and explain the comma.


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