Oklahoma Higher Education Campus E-Clips sponsored by the Communicators Council

August 2015

Renowned Granite Sculptor Named First Artist-in-Residence at USAO

USAO's Jesus Morales, student Freddy Baeza and professor Layne Thrift.

Jesús Moroles (left), internationally known granite sculptor, talks with USAO art major Freddy Baeza as assistant professor of art Layne Thrift lifts a piece of granite with the forklift. Nearly 1,000 pieces of granite will be used in the Coming Together Plaza, an environmental sculpture designed by Moroles for the USAO campus.

Internationally renowned sculptor Jesús Moroles has begun his tenure as the first artist-in-residence at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

Moroles accepted the position as part of a unique opportunity to work on a massive installation known as Coming Together Park while training a new generation of artists to work in his chosen medium, granite.

USAO President John Feaver said that he was delighted that both the campus and the student body would benefit from an artist of Moroles’ skill and vision.

“It’s no secret that Jesús is the very best at what he does,” Feaver said. “We are elated to host him as our first artist-in-residence and know that the impression he will leave on our campus and our students will be distinctive and enduring.”

As artist-in-residence, Moroles will work closely with USAO students and faculty who will be actively involved in creating and installing the granite pieces that will give the park its distinctive look.

In total, the park, which Moroles called an “environmental installation,” will cover a sprawling 40,000 square feet of the campus or slightly less than an acre.

Moroles, whose work is featured throughout the world, said the park would be the largest installation he has ever done in terms of space on the ground.
“I have built up but never across as much space as this will be,” he said.

The design features a series of granite rings placed around the trees that currently define the area just north of the university’s signature oval. A bed of crushed granite stones will garnish the area inside the ring.

Other features, including benches, a dry creek bed and plazas within the park, will turn the entire area into a place where students will fulfill the installation’s name by coming together for conversation and camaraderie.

Assistant professors of art Layne Thrift and Jordan Vinyard are supervising students as they cut, polish and place the granite in various locations within the park.

“This is an unbelievable opportunity for our students,” Thrift said. “There are very few universities in the country where students can work with granite on this scale and to be able to work directly with an artist the stature of Jesús Moroles is just incredible.”

Thrift estimated 150,000 pounds of granite would be used in the park.

The late Dr. Ingrid Shafer, longtime professor of philosophy and religious studies at USAO, donated more than 200 pieces to the university.

“Ingrid would have loved this,” Thrift said. “She devoted her entire life to teaching students that building bridges promotes understanding and peaceful coexistence. That’s the whole idea behind the Coming Together Park.”

Moroles added another 36,000 pounds from a quarry in Texas.

In all, he has more than 2,000 works in place in countries all over the world.

His most visible work, Lapstrake, is a 64-ton sculpture measuring more than 22 feet high that rests in the CBS Plaza in New York City.

Moroles, a Texas native, earned his BFA from North Texas State University. He was awarded the 2008 National Medal of Arts by President George W. Bush for his “enduring achievements as a sculptor of stone.” It is the highest achievement that an artist can receive from the U.S. government.

Moroles serves on the board of commissioners for the Smithsonian Institution’s National American Art Museum and served for many years on the board of directors for the International Sculpture Center in Washington, D.C.

Michael Nealeigh, vice president for university advancement and project supervisor, projects that the work on Coming Together Park will be completed by the end of the summer.

Campus E-Clips is published by the Communicators Council, an advisory group to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education comprised of Oklahoma higher education public information officers. All stories are submitted to a review panel of council members for editing and selection. To submit a story, please contact the participating council member from your institution. Stories must meet newsletter submission guidelines. Click here to view the Guidelines. For additional information, email newsletter@osrhe.edu. Site hosted by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Disclaimer