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What does learning look like?

According to New York Artist Alice Aycock, it looks just like that sculpture you pass every day on the Johnson-Ward Pedestrian Walkway.

The statue—A Startling Whirlwind of Opportunity–is a 25-foot tall swirling aluminum spiral with low-energy LED lighting elements.

Installed in 2009, the work of art was made possible by a gift from alumnus Wilton F. “Chick” Hill, a Memphis investor and art lover who received an engineering degree from UT in 1973.

The UT Public Art Selection Committee, made up of faculty, students, and administrators along with Knoxville-area artists, set out to find an artist to create a piece for campus using the money donated by Hill. In January 2005, an international call went out for artists to submit resumes and portfolios.

About 220 artists applied, and the committee chose four to visit campus that summer to inspect the Pedestrian Walkway site. That fall, after the site visits, each of the finalists returned to campus to present a lecture about the work they proposed for the site.

Following those presentations, the committee chose Aycock, who has created sculptures for a number of universities around the country.

Aycock said A Startling Whirlwind of Opportunity 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.