The Ballerina, That Blue Sculpture, and Those Concrete Canoes

If you have walked across the University of Texas at Tyler’s campus, you undoubtedly noticed a gigantic steel snapping turtle sunning itself on the levee between the library and the Administration Building. The turtle, titled East Texas Watch Dog, is the creation of Texas artist Joe Barrington, and has been an iconic part of life on campus for years. There are other unique works of art that you might not have noticed, though, or given much thought to. Here are a few of them

Near the entrance to the Administration Building, partly hidden among the ferns and flowers of a garden, is a four foot-tall statue of a ballerina. It is easy to miss her, or maybe not give her much thought while you hurry by, concentrating on paying your bill or registering for classes. If you do ever slow down and enjoy her presence, though, you will notice that the dancer is caught in a fluid motion, bent forward and supporting her weight on one slender leg.

Her official title is Spring Dance, and she is a bronze casting made by Utah artist Karl Jensen. Mrs. Louise H. Ornelas gifted Spring Dance to the university in 2003; it has been sitting in the same spot ever since then, welcoming visitors to campus.

On the east side of the UT Tyler Engineering Building, all the way down the hill from the Meadows Gallery, is a large, steel sculpture painted a rich shade of blue. It might seem out of place, until you find out it was originally installed in 2018 as an education project for the engineering school. It is one of over 170 versions of the sculpture installed at campuses around the world. Originally designed by Duane Ellifritt, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering at the University of Florida’s campus in Gainesville, it was made possible by a partnership with the American Institute of Steel Construction’s education program.

Welcoming visitors and students to the south entrance of the Engineering Building are what look to be the a series of concrete canoes halfway buried in the ground. This is almost exactly what they are; UTT’s version of the Cadillac Ranch is made of remains of the time in 2016 when the Concrete Canoe Competition was held at UTT. Since 1988, this national competition sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers has been held annually at universities across North America. 2016’s top five competitors were: Ecole de technologie superiere (Quebec); University of California, Los Angeles; University of Nevada, Reno; Western Kentucky University; and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The next time you walk through UT Tyler’s campus, look around you carefully; art lives everywhere- sometimes in official galleries, sometimes tucked away outside on the lawns. No matter what your taste for art is, chances are you will find it at UT Tyler.

Published by Derek Frazier

I'm the Interpretation Manager at the Tyler Museum of Art in Tyler, Texas.

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