Each piece of public art at UCF tells the story of the faculty, staff and community members who make these works available to the public.
By Nicole Dudenhoefer
Located in the John C. Hitt Library, Mapping the Florida Terrain (above) was painted by UCF professor Walter Gaudnek in 1989. The library, like many other places on campus, showcases art to capture the creative and innovative spirit of the UCF community.
More than 250 pieces of art can be seen throughout UCF’s campus – from paintings hanging in the halls of administrative buildings to large sculptures adorning the lawns between classrooms. While many might stop for a few moment to admire the pieces, there are small groups of faculty and staff who put hundreds of hours into making this artwork available for public access.
When selecting and caring for public art, Kevin Haran, administrator of the UCF Art in State Buildings Program and associate professor of art, says many things must be considered: finding the right location for artwork, determining what type of art is appropriate for a space, following safety regulations for display and determining the level of maintenance needed. Although UCF has one of the largest college campuses in the nation, simply filling space with attractive or interesting things to look at is not the purpose of public art at UCF.
“We have a School of Visual Art and Design that is one of the biggest in the country, so art and design is part of the campus curriculum and culture,” Haran says. “I think any major campus has key, landmark sculpture or landmark artworks that enhance the landscape and the community.”
While there are plenty of beautiful works adorning the campus, ranging from the Trio hanging mobile installation in the Student Union to the dynamic Elliptic Lens piece on the College of Optics & Photonics (CREOL) building, Haran says it is a challenge for people to see the collection in its entirety. This is why he is working on developing an interactive tour that will allow users to see UCF’s public art as a unified body, as well as learn about each piece’s history, intent and creator.
Artwork at UCF isn’t confined to the outdoor spaces and the walls of academic building. Hundreds more works are carefully tucked away in the Special Collections and University Archives’ climate-controlled storage room on the fifth floor of the John C. Hitt Library. These pieces are organized into six distinct collections – Africana Americana, Book Arts & Typography, Caribbean West Indies,Floridiana, Travel & Tourism and University Archives, all of which David Benjamin, head of the department, must care for with a small team. In addition to caring for the large collection, Benjamin is working on rotating the art on display in the Libraries and is working with an art history student to curate an exhibit highlighting Haitian art within the Caribbean West Indies collection.
“I think it’s important to expose students to art,” Benjamin says. “I think it stimulates thinking. I just can’t imagine not having art in the library. If you look around, there are art pieces that are just part of the permanent collections that hang in the building, and those are there because art beautifies. Art makes you think. Art, I think it helps you be creative. You see pieces, you think about them. How do you react to them?”
As UCF expands its campus with the addition to the John C. Hitt Library, as well as the new downtown location, so does the opportunities for art to be displayed to the community. Rather than choosing a freestanding structure or a painting to hang on a wall, the UCF Art in State Buildings Program is currently selecting an artist to work with the architect and builders of the new Dr. Phillips Academics Commons for a new piece that will be integrated into the building itself. Benjamin says a new exhibit gallery, part of the library expansion, will allow Special Collections and University Archives to exhibit art in new and innovative ways.
To make an appointment to view the special collections, call 407 – 823 -2576 or stop by room 501 of the John C. Hitt Library.