Sculptures to enhance Campus Center grounds

Megan Sebestyen
Staff Writer

The University of La Verne will celebrate the completion of the new Campus Center with the addition of the Muriel Pollia Sculpture Garden this fall.

This garden will feature two sculptures that will be the first pieces of public art on campus.

The sculptures will be installed by Sept. 1 so they will be in place during the Sept. 12 grand opening of the Campus Center.

The first sculpture, named “Inhale Exhale” will be 54 feet tall and a bright red and orange color.

The second sculpture is still in the design process, but should measure around 12 feet.

Both pieces were created by sculptor Philip K. Smith III.

“My goal for the sculpture was to create a piece that inspires hopes and dreams. I wanted to create some sort of strong, central piece on campus that would bond the student body together,” Smith said.

Ruth Trotter, professor of art, served as chairwoman on a committee of eight university staff and students to select an artist for the sculpture garden. A national competition invited artists to submit their qualifications and then selected artists to create proposals for the sculpture garden.

“It sounded like a fantastic project: I was in,” Smith said. “I wanted to create something that was memorable and innovative for the city.”

University Advancement Vice President Jean Bjerke said that the sculpture could be the beginning of more art on campus.

“The sculpture will bring diversity to the campus,” Maxtla Benavides, a public relations senior, said. “We’re an old campus, but the campus center will be something new. When the center and the sculpture garden open, it will be like starting a new era.”

“It is certainly a piece that will be impossible to miss,” Bjerke said. “I hope that it will lead people to want to know more about art.”

Dion Johnson, director of galleries, said that there is a discussion regarding whether student work will also be displayed in the garden.

The sculpture is designed so that it will look different from every angle.

“I want my work to be like looking at the clouds. Everybody can take their own understanding of what it is and what it can be,” Smith said. “I hope that I have distilled the meaning enough to inspire multiple understandings of the sculpture.”

Smith has worked at The Art Office in Indio since 2000, completing design and architecture projects.

In addition to completing two sculptures, he said that he is also working on the design of a 35,000 square-foot homeless shelter and a façade for a power plant.

“I actually had a show in the art Harris Gallery on four public art projects I’ve worked on earlier this year,” Smith said. “I’ve spent a lot of time on the campus. I love the campus.”

The Muriel Pollia Foundation granted $250,000 to support the Sara and Michael Abraham Campus Center.

This money went directly toward the budget for Smith’s sculptures.

The Muriel Pollia Foundation, based in Los Angeles, honors the life and work of Muriel Pollia who is remembered as a broadcaster and philanthropist.

The foundation was founded in 2006 to show respect for Pollia’s support for the arts and her love of humanitarian work.

Trotter said that she would like to acknowledge those who are a part of the committee that selected the artist. They are listed below.

Jay Rodriguez, ULV trustee emeritus and trustee of the Muriel Pollia Foundation.

David Flaten, chairman and professor of the Theater Arts Department.

David Koch, director of facilities management.

Jon Leaver, assistant professor of art history.

Nancy Walker, associate professor of education.

Denise Gutierrez, manager of grant and foundation support in the office of University Advancement.

Lynee Sanute, student representative.

Megan Sebestyen can be reached at

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