Get Your Art Fix: Public Art on Campus

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A guide to public art on the UW Tacoma campus lists more than 80 works by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Dale Chihuly, Gerard Tsutakawa and Dawoud Bey.

(Photo above: a detail from The Four Elements (2003), a four-panel terracotta sculpture by artist Steve Gardner hanging in the main stairs of UW Tacoma's Science Building.)

When you think of university art collections, what comes to mind? Picasso, Chihuly, Tsutakawa… It just so happens all those artists, and many others, are represented in the public art collection on the UW Tacoma campus.

Now there’s an easy, updated way to learn more about the campus art collection. You can visit a newly developed website that offers large format photos and brief essays about several of the highlights from the collection, and download a printable brochure that provides a guided tour to more than 80 art works.

The collection has been growing and maturing for the entire 25 years of campus history. The bulk of the collection is part of the State Art Collection, funded by one-half percent of the state-allocated construction budgets of campus building and renovation projects. This art funding mechanism was established by the state legislature when it passed a law in 1974 creating the ½%-for-art program.

Other pieces in the collection are the result of private gifts to UW Tacoma, either of the artwork itself or of the funds required to purchase the art. The campus art brochure indicates which pieces were publicly or privately funded.

Some of the most recent works added to the campus include:

Strangers/Community, by Dawoud BeyStrangers/Community, by Dawoud Bey, 2013

Bey, a Chicago-based photographer and professor of art at Columbia College Chicago, was commissioned to create a series of paired portraits bringing together people from different parts of the Tacoma community. The portrait series hangs in the Snoqualmie Library Power House and was funded by the Washington State Arts Commission’s Art in Public Places Program. In 2014, Americans for the Arts recognized the installation with its Public Art Network Year in Review Award.

Maru, by Gerard TsutakawaMaru, by Gerard Tsutakawa, 2014

This nine-foot-tall bronze sculpture, located at the north end of the Prairie Line Trail as it passes through campus, honors the Japanese Language School that once stood at Tacoma Ave. and 19th St. Tsutakawa is a Northwest artist known for the iconic “Mitt” sculpture installed at the left field entrance to Safeco Field in Seattle. The creation and installation of Maru was funded by private donations.

In Unity There's Strength, by Chelsea O'SullivanIn Unity There’s Strength, by Chelsea O’Sullivan, 2015

This large mural, installed in the entrance lobby of the University Y Student Center, honors the legacy of the longshore union hall that occupied the site for 60 years. Changes in technology and labor traditions are portrayed by juxtaposing images of port operations of the 1950s and the 21st century.

Visit the new guide to public art on the UW Tacoma campus.

Written by: 
John Burkhardt / August 5, 2015
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or