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Destler Dodge

Despite being primarily recognized as a top school for engineering and computing (as implied by the Institute’s name itself), the RIT campus also holds the arts in high esteem. The fine arts curriculum was introduced to RIT (then the Mechanics Institute) in 1886 and has been an important part of campus life since. We are consistently ranked as a top university for art and design, but the value placed on the arts doesn’t stop with our strong academic programs. Since the establishment of the Henrietta campus, RIT has been dedicated to enriching the campus environment and culture by showcasing art throughout the grounds.

“When they constructed this campus, that’ll be 50 years ago next year ... they put aside some money to purchase art,” Becky Simmons, an RIT archivist notes. Because of the importance of the visual arts to the Institute, one percent of the construction budget was allocated for purchasing art for the campus. Heading the acquisitions committee was Arthur Stern (a member of the Board of Trustees), his wife Molly and Mrs. Vanderbilt Webb, founder of the School for American Crafts. Hailing from New York City, Webb was knowledgeable about art and particularly instrumental in identifying and selecting works to bring to the campus.

Since the construction of this campus, RIT’s art collection has only grown. The influx of new pieces keep Simmons and her colleagues busy. Each year, the campus is gifted works by faculty members and alumni, but also purchases works from Masters students’ thesis exhibitions and the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences honors show as part of the library’s Purchase Prize programs. A large portion of the art decorating the walls of the library is student work that has been acquired by the RIT collection.

In addition to the pieces housed in the Archives and the various RIT galleries, there are dozens of public art pieces on display throughout the campus that, put frankly by Simmons “you can’t miss.” From seeing Luvon Sheppard’s “Rochester, State and Main Street” painting in the Bausch and Lomb Center when first visiting the admissions office, to passing by Albert Paley’s “Sentinel” while walking to class each day, the art around campus is ubiquitous and beautiful.

In addition to the aesthetic value they hold, the works inadvertently serve a functional purpose, often cited as reference points when navigating around campus or giving directions. Because of this, it is essential to know what the pieces are and where they are located, so when someone says, “Meet me at the Sundial!” you’ll know exactly what they mean.

Based on Simmons' input, and the works listed in "View It! The Art and Architecture of RIT" and RIT’s Art on Campus website, Reporter has compiled this helpful guide to familiarize you with art around campus.  

“Sentinel” and “Cloaked Intentions” Sculptures, Albert Paley (2003, 2013)

World renowned metalworker and sculptor Albert Paley joined the staff of the School for American Crafts in 1969 and left his permanent mark on campus with the dedication of the 73-foot “Sentinel” in 2003. Located outside the SAU in the Administration Circle, the towering stainless steel and bronze sculpture “addresses the dynamism of education,” according to a University News article. It is rumored that the statue is modeled after a knight riding on a horse, which can only be seen from the top floor of Eastman.

A second Paley sculpture, entitled “Cloaked Intentions,” was brought to the campus in 2013. After being exhibited with 12 other Paley pieces on Park Avenue in New York City, “Cloaked Intentions” now resides between Louise Slaughter Hall and the Sustainability Institute Hall.   

“Three Piece Reclining Figure No. 1” Sculpture, Henry Moore (1961–62)

Found between Booth and the College of Liberal Arts in the Kodak Quad, this three-piece bronze sculpture is an organic abstraction of a reclining female figure. It is one of the first pieces representing Moore’s divergence from the two-piece figures that dominated his earlier work.  

“Principia” Floor, Larry Kirkland (1998)

Best viewed from the third floor of Gosnell, the black granite atrium floor in the College of Science depicts various milestones in science. The digits of pi are etched in the stairs and A, C, T and G (the nitrogen bases found in DNA) construct a border on one side of the floor. While awe-inspiring when viewed from above, a view from floor level reveals the inspirational words of prominent scientists.

“Construction #105” Sculpture, Jose de Rivera (1968)

Found in the Infinity Quad near the College of Engineering, this seemingly simple sculpture forms a Mobius Strip, a shape in which both sides of the loop travel along the same plane. Nicknamed the Infinity Loop, this fascinating and graceful steel sculpture turns with the wind. Together, "Construction #105" and the "Sundial" on dorm side mark the two ends of the original campus.

“Sundial” Sculpture, Alistair Bevington (1968)

At the time of its installation in 1968, the 25-foot equatorial sundial located in the residence quad was speculated to be the largest in the country. While it was hoped that the piece might encourage timeliness and punctuality, it became evident soon after the installation that the sundial was only accurate for four days of the year.  

“Growth and Youth” Murals, Josef Albers (1968)

Albers’ massive, sunny murals are located on either side of the first-floor lobby of the Eastman Building. Painted in shades of yellow, the two murals are color reversals of each other.  

“RIT Bengal Tiger” Sculpture, D.H.S. Wehle (1989)

With the 1955 mascot change from the Techmen to the Tigers, the RIT community figured it was best to go big or go home. The Alumni Association notes that this included fundraising to obtain a live tiger cub, Spirit, who attended many athletic events. Unfortunately, Spirit the tiger suffered from several health complications and had to be put down. In 1989, a second tiger came to campus in the form of a bronze sculpture located on the Quarter Mile across from the Kodak Quad. Wehle, an artist and zoologist, spent many hours studying the physiognomy of tigers before beginning work on RIT’s permanent mascot. 

Want more art? Check out these locations:

  • Bevier Gallery
  • University Gallery
  • SPAS William Harris Gallery
  • CIAS Dean’s Gallery
  • Cary Graphic Arts Collection
  • RIT Archives
  • NTID Dyer Arts Center