There are about 30 outdoor sculptures scattered throughout University of Nebraska-Lincoln City and East campuses. These sculptures all contribute to the 642-acre UNL Botanical Garden and Arboretum. Some of these sculptures have historical influences, like Catherine Ferguson’s “Arietta II” located just north of the Sheldon Museum of Art.
“Prehistoric people living along the Mississippi River in Iowa built Earth mounds in the shapes of animals,” Ferguson said. “I selected birds from these records because of their ability to lift off. I applied the birds to form the larger cone shape, a shape that can suggest the toe shoe of a ballet dancer. Both birds and dancers captivate us because of their defiance of gravity.”
“Arietta II” stands at 12 feet tall and took Ferguson about six weeks to both design and construct. Ferguson said it was initially created for an exhibit at Navy Pier in Chicago before UNL bought it. She also said her favorite part about this particular sculpture is its shape.
“The front and back curve and the sides are flat,” Ferguson said. “I like that you can see more than one or two sides at once, because of the openings.”
Sharon Kennedy, director of education at the Sheldon Museum of Art, said that while works like “Torn Notebook” by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen and “Breach” – the stainless steel tree by Roxy Paine were made specifically for UNL – most on-campus sculptures were not made with that intention.
“There is a story that ‘SANDY: in Defined Space’ by Richard McDermott Miller was originally a work on loan,” Kennedy said of a sculpture of a woman framed in a square. “When it came time to return the piece to its lender, UNL students banded together to raise money to help purchase the work so that it could be enjoyed for years to come.”
The oldest sculpture displayed on campus is one called “Bather” by Jacques Lipchitz, which can be found next to the front doors of the Sheldon and dates back to 1923-1925. The most recent addition, installed in 2013, was created by Omaha artist Jun Kaneko. The piece is a blue, glazed ceramic head and sits on a galvanized steel base on the southwest side of the Sheldon.
While she enjoys all the work displayed on campus, Kennedy said she especially likes “Greenpoint” by Richard Serra, a CorTen steel piece just south of the bell tower and north of Love Library.
“It is monumental in size and has a beautiful rust patina,” Kennedy said. “Visitors can walk into the work which allows for an enhanced experience. Once inside you can get a better sense of the scale of the piece. If you clap your hands or holler ‘Go Big Red!’ you will find there is a wonderful echo. You can also look up and frame the sky or look to the north and find that the work provides a perfect frame for Mueller Tower.”