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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is adding a dynamic new sculpture to its campus thanks to a private gift from alumnus Wilton D. “Chick” Hill.

Sculpture Rendering
Sculpture Rendering
The sculpture, designed by New York-based artist Alice Aycock, is being installed on the Johnson-Ward Pedestrian Mall throughout this week. The five-year process was facilitated by the School of Art.

Titled “A Startling Whirlwind of Opportunity,” the 25-foot tall swirling, spiral form, which consists of curved aluminum and lighting elements, conveys the energy Aycock sensed from the site, an area that hundreds of college students walk through daily.

Some of the lighting elements in the sculpture will use low-energy LED lighting to help ensure the piece will fit into UT Knoxville’s Make Orange Green campus sustainability initiative. In addition, UT Facilities Services will install timing devices to control when the lighting elements are on in order to reduce unnecessary energy use.

Aycock’s piece captures another theme essential to the university and important to Hill: opportunity.

“Chick Hill is very contemporary and forward-thinking when it comes to art, and he also values his experiences with UT over the years,” said Jason Brown, associate professor of sculpture in the School of Art. “He wanted [the sculpture] to be about opportunity, because he feels like his education at UT is directly responsible for what he’s been able to accomplish in his life.”

Hill, a Memphis resident and owner of the Davidson Hotel Co., was not an art student while at UT but throughout his adult life has cultivated a love of art, which he wanted to share with current UT students, faculty and staff. He received an engineering degree in 1973.

Aycock says her piece is a metaphor for the possibilities and interconnections that occur in the university environment.

“The acquisition of knowledge is not a static series of steps but an incredibly dynamic, energetic and creative ricochet of information. Ideas are not at rest,” she said.

Aycock has spent much of her nearly 40-year career creating works of site-specific art. Her earlier pieces usually consisted of wood, stone and earth. In the 1980s, she began to move into metal mediums, such as steel and aluminum. One of her most recent metal works is a piece for the East Bank Greenway Public Art Project in Nashville, called “Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks.”

The UT Public Art Selection Committee, made up of faculty, students, administrators and Knoxville-area artists, commissioned Aycock after reviewing the work of approximately 220 applicants. The process began in January 2005, when an international call was made to artists to submit resumes and portfolios of their work to be evaluated by the committee.

The field was narrowed to four artists who each visited campus separately in the summer of 2005 to assess and measure the sculpture site. The following fall, the finalists presented lectures about their proposals for the space. The committee based their selection on these lectures.

“We wanted very much to make the entire sculpture selection process an educational experience,” Brown said. “By enabling students to be a part of the selection committee and by making the four finalists’ presentations into a lecture series, we feel as if we’ve accomplished this.”

Aycock will be on campus throughout the installation process. A special dedication event open to the public will be held on Friday, Sept. 11.

Attached are low-resolution images of the sculpture. High-resolution versions of the images are available at https://news.utk.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/Whirlwind_Sculpture_lg.jpg and https://news.utk.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/whirlwind_construction_lg.jpg.

C O N T A C T :

Jason Brown (865-974-3225, jbrown45@utk.edu)
Kristi Hintz (865-974-3993, khintz@utk.edu)

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