When internationally renowned artist Richard Hunt learned that his friend Josephine Ferguson had purchased a 7-foot stainless steel sculpture of his with the intent of displaying it as an outdoor piece at Valparaiso University, Hunt had a better idea. Hunt, a Chicago native, offered to create a larger outdoor piece for Ferguson and the University.
Both Ferguson, a 1946 Valpo graduate, and Gregg Hertzlieb, director of the Brauer Museum of Art, were thrilled.
Hunt’s work was unveiled Saturday, Nov. 10, during a ceremony at the Valparaiso University Center for the Arts. The 17-foot-tall piece made of welded stainless steel will be on permanent display outside the west entrance of the Center for the Arts, in view of the Chapel of the Resurrection and the Harre Union.
After a contribution from Ferguson, Hunt donated his time, materials, and creativity to construct the large piece.
“He said that this donation was in honor of Jo and Valparaiso University for the support they have shown him and his artwork over the years,” Hertzlieb said.
Hunt is represented by numerous pieces in the Brauer Museum of Art’s collection, mainly due to the generosity of Ferguson. A longtime admirer of his work, Ferguson has brought the sculpture of Hunt to the community of Valparaiso through not only her donations to the Brauer but also her commissions of Hunt’s work for Immanuel Lutheran Church.
Hunt is represented in major museum collections worldwide, including the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Modern Art in New York, New York, and the Museum of the Twentieth Century in Vienna, Austria. His sweeping abstract creations inspire viewers with their strength and inventiveness, and reward repeated viewings from various vantage points.
The sculpture Hunt created for the unveiling is, as yet, untitled. An abstract work of art, the organic forms may suggest a variety of things to the various viewers.
“That’s a delightful aspect of the sculpture,” Hertzlieb said. “The sculpture to me, the artist, and many viewers of Hunt’s other pieces similar in configuration represents a reach upward, an uplifting sense, an elevation of spirit and confidence. For us, the sculpture and its presence on campus reflect spiritual, educational, and professional goals that are realized through ongoing striving.
“We are committed to bringing the finest art to our students. Hunt’s piece is a wonderful addition to our current holdings, a piece that raises the bar and communicates to visitors and the community the kind of quality sculptural work we will be able to offer here.”
The list of speakers at the unveiling ceremony included Hertzlieb, Richard AmRhein, chief of staff for the Office of the President, Ferguson, and Hunt. The Rev. Jim Wetzstein, University pastor, offered a blessing of the sculpture.