Some in plain sight and some tucked away in the hidden corners of our campus, outdoor sculptures on the grounds of UC Santa Barbara offer a moment of culture in nature. Both the artwork and its surrounding architecture offer an intriguing visual experience as visitors traverse the campus. Whether you are going to study at the library, heading to chemistry class, or biking into Isla Vista, many of these works of art may have caught your eye. Even though these activities feel like a distant memory due to COVID-19, the beautiful campus is still available for virtual exploration through this public art and architecture tour. So while you wait for normalcy to return to our school, follow this quick and easy guide to enjoy UC Santa Barbara’s outdoor art!
Centered on the grassy quad on the northside of Student Health, three golden figures watch over the students as they come and go from campus. Created by Haig Patigian in 1929, Industry, Aviation, and Navigation speak to the university’s reputation for innovation and advancement. The golden rays of the Californian sun complement the gilded terracotta sculptures that had been installed back-to-back on a pentagonal base designed by Robert I. Hoyt in 1969.
Originally, the figures stood above the arch entrance of the Richfield Tower in downtown Los Angeles, looking down upon visitors. The building was designed in 1929 in the Zigzag Moderne style by the architecture firm Morgan, Walls and Clements, becoming the only building on the West Coast to be clad in black and gold terracotta. David Gebhard—UC Santa Barbara professor of architecture, founder of the Architecture and Design Collection (ADC) and director of the Museum—worked to bring the Art Deco sculptures to campus in 1969, upon the demolition of the tower.
Flying Pencils, a favorite amongst students, is found adjacent to Campus Green on the lawn of Ellison Hall. Truly dynamic and exciting to watch, the sculpture features gigantic blue- and red-colored pencils in a constant state of motion. As the pencils cut through the air with the power of the wind, one can only imagine what they could be drawing in the sky. Made in 1986, sculptor Peter Logan merges UCSB’s creative and technological talents with his kinetic sculpture. The sculpture adds fluidity to the sharp angles of its 1960s architectural backdrop, while the primary colors also play off of the orange hues of Ellison Hall.
A second kinetic sculpture, Quiet Storm, created by Evan Lewis, remains one of UC Santa Barbara’s hidden gems. Attached to the back façade of the Theatre and Dance Building and facing the lagoon, the blue steel sculpture utilizes wind to power the spinning metal.
The artwork brings life to the towering wall of the building originally designed by Jones and Emmons. It was retrofitted in 2007 by the A.C. Martin architectural firm and became part of Theatre West Complex of buildings. In his long career, Lewis conceptualizes each of his designs with the inspiration of “ethereal qualities in art.”. On stormy days, the metal works dance, creating large fluid circles upon the wall. But on the typical sunny day in Santa Barbara, Quiet Storm feels connected to the ocean with its blue painted steel and peaceful motion.
Annular Eclipse VI by George Rickey displays the artist’s fascination with engineering and mechanics, providing another striking example of the collision between art and science. This third and final kinetic sculpture overlooks the lagoon on the west side of the Art, Design & Architecture Museum. Created between 1998 to 2000, the beautiful marine environment enhances the sculpture. The silver steel plays with the sunlight, as the ocean breeze spins the circular shapes.
I greatly appreciate the help of Museum staff members, Julia Larson, Archivist of the Architecture and Design Collection and Susan Lucke, Collections Manager & Registrar.
Olivia Thompson, Museum Intern