Note: The following text is
from an article in the June 5, 2000 issue of the Vanderbilt
Register. Used with permission.
Signature sculpture unveiled
Amy Pate and Beth Fox
primary mission -- the creation and dissemination of knowledge --
has been captured in more than 5 tons of bronze.
May 27, artist Greg Wyatt's "The Tree of Learning" has
found a home on Library Lawn. The sculpture represents "knowledge
and how it is espoused and passed on year after year, decade after
decade, century after century," Chancellor Joe B. Wyatt said
during the unveiling ceremony.
100 people came out for the unveiling, many of them alumni on campus
for reunion weekend.
Tree of Learning" is the centerpiece of the Garden of Great
Ideas, a program that has placed eight sculptures on campus over
the past three years. With the exception of "The Tree of Learning"
and Wyatt's "The Bill of Rights Eagle," placed in May
1997, all donated sculptures are the work of young artists from
the Newington-Cropsey Foundation Academy of Art, which Wyatt directs.
"We believe this is quite an appropriate succession in the
life of great art, in the life of a great university," Wyatt
said, noting that Cornelius Vanderbilt had been a patron of the
Hudson River School of Art that the Newington-Cropsey Foundation
is dedicated to preserving.
"The installation of Greg Wyatt's 'The Tree of Learning' at
Vanderbilt University, a foundation of learning, offers an appropriate
symbolism," said Tom Turk, executive director of the Metro
Nashville Arts Commission.
Mayor Bill Purcell noted that Vanderbilt has been an advocate in
the public art arena and has led the way in the placement of public
art. "There are moments, frankly, when there need to be leaders,"
he said. "Vanderbilt University and Chancellor Joe B. Wyatt
have been just that and have inspired not just people on this campus
but in all our city."
three trunks of "The Tree of Learning" create an inner
sanctum, allowing visitors to enter it. It is also internally lighted
at night. The 20-foot sculpture features images of figures, faces
and hands worked into the bark, and the leaves and buds of the tree
are modeled after Vanderbilt's famed Bicentennial Oak.
hands clutching candles are passing the torch of learning,"
said Judson Newbern, associate vice chancellor for campus planning
and construction, prior to the unveiling. "Like the quest for
knowledge, what initially seem barren branches require closer observation
to reveal the promise of breaking buds that represent the renewing
cycle universities go through in passing along knowledge."
May 27 unveiling was the culmination of a long journey for "The
Tree of Learning." Modeled in Wyatt's New York studio, the
tree was enlarged, cast and fabricated at Tallix, one of the world's
largest foundries dedicated to art fabrication. It was cast in 800
pieces before being welded into three large trunk sections. Those
three trunks were brought to campus via two flatbed trucks from
Tallix in Beacon, N.Y. The oversize loads could only travel six
hours each day. After arriving May 24, the pieces were then assembled
on Library Lawn and erected using a crane. The sculpture was then
wired for lighting, and the area around it landscaped.
in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., the nonprofit Newington-Cropsey Foundation
is dedicated to studying, conserving and exhibiting the works of
Hudson River School artist Jasper Francis Cropsey. Vanderbilt learned
of the Great Ideas program from U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, who saw
a presentation by Newington-Cropsey at the U.S. Capitol.
Wyatt is the sculptor-in-residence at New York's Cathedral Church
of St. John the Divine, where he created the 40-foot-high "Peace
Fountain," the first outdoor children's sculpture garden.