Major New Sculpture to Reflect UC Merced’s Mission in Central Valley

Beginnings Sculpture to be Erected in Central Courtyard This YearMERCED, CA - The hopes and aspirations of the rapidly growing University of California, Merced campus will be captured metaphorically in a major new piece of sculpture - a gift to the university - to be erected in the central courtyard this academic year.

"Beginnings," inspired by former Acting Chancellor Rod Park in 2006 and conceived by noted American sculptor Aris Demetrios, will consist of two gently curving, vertical arms, each about 40 feet high, rising from a large circular base. The enfolding arms are a metaphor for the embrace of a caring university that values its students and its community and the germination of a seed representing the growth and ever-increasing potential of UC Merced. This work is unique among university sculptures in that it says, "this is what we are and what we do."

The burnished stainless-steel sculpture will be located at the open end of the quad in the academic core of campus, facing the city of Merced. Demetrios, a renowned contemporary sculptor whose large-scale works can be seen throughout the world, proposed the design after visiting the campus and learning about its mission.

"The quad at UC Merced is an empty stage crying out to make a statement," Park said. "This empty stage presents a unique opportunity to say metaphorically why the university is here and what it hopes to accomplish. The UC Board of Regents envisioned this campus as a seed that would grow, addressing the educational and professional needs of the Central Valley and providing a much-needed stimulus to the local economy. The design perfectly captures the sense of birth, outreach, nurturing and contribution that defines the university's vital mission here in the Valley."

Park and his wife, Cathy, are the primary donors and visionaries for the project. In addition, generous donations by the Bob and Marie Gallo family and John, Joseph and Fred T. Franzia of Bronco Winery made the work possible. Demetrios also made significant contributions to the project.

"The generosity and thoughtfulness represented by this gift are truly extraordinary," said Chancellor Steve Kang. "No message could be more inspirational than the message of hope and giving that it conveys. It will remind all of us for generations to come what a major research university can and should do to help lift up a region and create a brighter future for its people."

The installation of the sculpture is expected to be completed in spring 2009 so that it can serve as a centerpiece for the spring commencement when about 400 students will be the first full senior class to graduate from UC Merced since it opened in 2005.

The sculpture is being manufactured by Tim Billington of Billington Welding & Manufacturing, Inc. of Modesto. Steve Perkins of Perkins Design Associates provided the landscape architectural services, and structural engineering services have been provided by Mason Walters of Forell/Elsesser Engineers, Inc.

Demetrios lives in Solvang, Calif., and serves as artist-in-residence at UC Santa Barbara.

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