Inside Texas Tech: Campus' Public Art Collection Nationally Respected, Growing

Sep 11, 2015

Credit Texas Tech University

This is the first in a series of segments focused on the public art collection at Texas Tech, the artists who contributed, the university themes reflected in the art and specific pieces located around the Texas Tech University System.

Art - in the forms of mosaics, sculptures, mixed media, benches and campus landmarks - is cropping up in more and more corners of the Texas Tech University Campus. And thanks to a statewide program that guarantees university public art funding, there will soon be more public art adorning walkways and building entries.

Emily Wilkinson, the university's Public Art Manager, is tasked with calling for and commissioning public art displays for the Tech campus, along with a committee. Quickly expanding, the public art program at Texas Tech installed a handful of new pieces this summer alone, Wilkinson said.

"We put in four new pieces for summer - so if people went away for the summer, end of spring semester and came back, hopefully they’ve noticed that there’s several more pieces that have gone in over the summer," Wilkinson said. "And we have six pending projects right now, and several more right now that are kind of slated to be posted in the next year or so. So we’re really growing a lot."

That fast growth is largely due to the Percent for Art Program that designates one percent of construction and renovation costs for campus building projects for the commission and installation of public art, often continuing a theme found in the building's purpose. 

After its addition to the Board of Regents' Rules in 1998, the Percent for Art program has spurred the creation or acquisition of approximately $7 million worth of art, roughly three-quarters of which is located on the Lubbock flagship campus. 

"The public art program was actually added to the regents’ rules in 1998, and officially adopted in 2001, and what it states [is] that one percent of each construction project budget – and this is new construction and renovation – one percent of that is allocated for the purchase of original art to be placed with that project and in a publicly accessible place nearby," Wilkinson said. "So anytime – this even includes life safety updates, things like a sprinkler system or a new HVAC, we get to install art with all those projects, so it’s really neat."

There doesn't seem to be a slowing of new art on campus, either - with more funding allocated to Texas Tech for building projects, more funding will continue the rate of new art appearing on campus.

The public art collection is not only impressive by the numbers, Wilkinson said, but also by the names - artists like local favorite Glenna Goodacre and sculptors Deborah Butterfield and Tom Otterness have all contributed pieces to the collection, garnering national rankings among other university art collections.

"Tech was actually ranked in the top 10 nationally, of university public art programs, and as far as I know, [is] the only Texas university among that ranking," Wilkinson said. "So I may be biased, but I do believe that Texas Tech has one of the best programs in the nation, not just because of those findings, but just because we are adding to our collection so rapidly."

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