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First piece of art for new union completed

SAUL LOEB/Arizona Daily Wildcat

CatCard office employees Donna Baker, left, and Pat Zeigler admire a new spire installed north of the Student Union Memorial Center yesterday evening. The piece, which showcases a monsoon using tiles wrapped around the base, is the first of three works that will be placed around the student union.

By Sarah Battest
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday Jan. 30, 2002

Spire uses solar energy to light Sonoran Desert scene

The first of three works of art to be displayed outside the Student Union Memorial Center was completed yesterday.

The work - a 23-foot tall triangular spire with a crescent moon on top - reflects the use of modern technologies like wind and solar power.

Solar panels on certain sections of the spire - located near the Second Street Garage - will light the artwork without the aid of electricity, making it completely self-sufficient.

The design symbolizes changes affecting human life, such as the transition from night to day, or from one season to another, said Susan Gamble, owner of Santa Theresa Tile Works, which designed the spire.

Gamble wanted it to reflect Sonoran Desert life. The piece showcases a monsoon using tiles wrapped around the base.

Funding for all three spires came from one half of 1 percent of construction funds for the Student Union Memorial Center. The total amount commissioned for this project was $97,000.

Generally, projects that cost more than $1 million have funds put aside for public art, said Peter Dorlind, associate director of Facilities Design and Construction. The new union is expected to cost $60 million

The selection process for this project began in 1999, with a national call for artists to submit their work for review.

"There were over 50 artists who made a proposal," Dorlind said.

Only five artists were selected to make models for the final round of te selection process based more on a feeling rather than logical thinking.

"What we want in public art is not a science," Dorlind said.

The next spire, expected to be completed in May, will be a memorial to those who fought and died on the USS Arizona.

The spire will use several replicated dog tags with names of those who died when the ship was destroyed in the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. The tags will act as a gigantic wind chime, incorporating the concept of wind power.

"It will be an evocative way to remember the dead," Gamble said.

Completion of the third spire is planned for December 2002 and will incorporate UA student and faculty input.

Inspiration for the first spire came from the Watts Towers - large towers constructed of broken glass and other materials - located in Los Angeles.

Gamble considers the Watts towers to be an intricate piece of art because it shows human ingenuity, which she wanted to have as a part of the first spire.

"You can see someone's thumbprint on it," Gamble said.

Santa Theresa Tile Works' last UA art project, Mi Tierra was for the DeConcini building.

The artwork was awarded the Prism International grand prize at the International Stone and Tile Show in 2001.


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