At USC, art isn’t something that remains tucked away in museum basements or locked in storage.
At the Sept. 30 art grand opening of the newly constructed Ronald Tutor Campus Center, Trojans met artists and viewed the more than 100 pieces of art and Trojan memorabilia on display in the university’s central gathering place.
At the reception, guests enjoyed cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and guided art tours as well as remarks from Patrick Bailey, senior associate dean of students and executive director of student life and involvement; Selma Holo, director of the USC Fisher Museum of Art; and Michael L. Jackson, vice president for student affairs.
Holo praised the Ronald Tutor Campus Center Art and Trojan Traditions program, which enables the new facility to display paintings, drawings, photographs, murals, tapestries, sculptures and memorabilia from its own permanent collection, as well as more than 50 pieces on loan from the USC Fisher Museum of Art.
She also highlighted other aspects of the program — such as community outreach, upcoming exhibitions and commissions — concluding that USC had created “a unique model in higher education for relationships between the university or college museum and its campus center.”
Holo then joined Bailey in mediating a special behind-the-scenes conversation with artists Richard Zawitz, John Nava and Lucy Arai.
The signature commission of the Tutor Campus Center collection is Nava’s “Trojan Family Tapestry,” a 22-square-foot work of art that permanently hangs in the building’s main entrance. Nava used USC students, faculty and staff as models and drew from the USC library archives for the background design. Among the people depicted are USC President Emeritus Steven B. Sample and 2008 Olympic gold medalist and former USC swimmer Rebecca Soni.
“When I was little, I’d go to museums and I loved the paintings, the Rembrandts and things,” Nava told the audience. “When I was young, I went to the New York World’s Fair where they had brought Michelangelo’s Pieta to Flushing Meadows. I was always into the great classical Western tradition of art. That’s what spoke to me then, and it still speaks to me. For me, it’s the great heart and soul of art, and I think we’re very sensitive to the human image.”
Zawitz, a Zen artist, fielded questions about his sculpture titled “INFINITY 8.30.” Permanently installed on the lower level of the Tutor Campus Center, the reflective tangle of stainless steel weighs approximately 675 pounds and sits on a 2,000-pound marble base.
“It’s wonderful for my art to be in a nontraditional museum and especially around university students,” he said. “I want the young folks to be able to participate, to be inspired, to be instilled with the energy that comes with art.”
Arai, whose mixed-media work “2001.02: Waterfall” hangs on the third floor of the Tutor Campus Center, explained how a traditional Japanese stitching technique evolved into her unique medium of expression.
“This is quite a wonderful opportunity to address tradition at USC, a place where tradition really is something very bold, spirited and present in our daily lives,” she said.
Guests also celebrated the rededication of “La Memoria de Nuestra Tierra: California,” a mural by Judy Baca that originally was completed for the USC campus in 1996.
“Murals sing gospel from our streets and preach to us about who we can be, what we fear and what we can inspire,” said Baca, before Aztec dancers and a mariachi band took the stage.
The Tutor Campus Center also showcases works of art by USC students, alumni, faculty and community members, as well as pieces by international artists from as far away as China and Ghana. Additional art installations and memorabilia displays already are planned for the Campus Center and the adjacent Student Union.
“We’re soaring, we’re striving, we’re working incredibly hard to be the best that we can possibly be,” Jackson said. “From my perspective, art is a way of unleashing all of our potential and inspiring us to think in ways we never thought before.”