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A Labor of Love: Adding Student and Alumni artwork to the CUB

Sarah Hargest remembers seeing Palm Court and Elizabeth Hall for the first time when she toured Stetson’s campus and decided to attend college here. 

She loves the scenic spot so much that she included a painting of it in her senior art show. The vivid colors of the painting, and others in her series, “Filtered,” caught the attention of an administrator on campus, who is now purchasing all six to hang in the Carlton Union Building.

“You wish your art will impact somebody enough that they want it and for Stetson to want it, to have it up on display in the CUB, is crazy, especially as a senior in college,” said Hargest, a Studio Art and Theatre Arts major who will graduate next month. “It’s incredible.”

Sarah Hargest stands beside Palm Court painting
Senior Sarah Hargest says about her painting of Palm Court: “Elizabeth Hall is gorgeous and Palm Court, like the height of the palm trees really has a monumental feel to it. So, I just felt that this was a very good iconic picture of Stetson and also resonated with me, remembering picking Stetson for its beauty.”

Lua Hancock, vice president of Campus Life and Student Success, jokingly said she’s “obsessed” with Hargest’s paintings and their vibrant colors. She asked to buy the whole series for the CUB before Hargest had even finished all six of them.

One painting – showing the cupola of the DeLand Historic Courthouse in bright neon colors –  sat in Hancock’s office in the CUB for a few months until Hargest needed it back for her senior art show. The show, which runs through May 3 in the Hand Art Center, features the six paintings, including ones of Palm Court, Sampson Hall and Griffith Hall.

About the DeLand Historic Courthouse, above, and her other paintings, Sarah Hargest said she photographed the buildings, and adjusted various levels, such as the saturation, exposure and color in PhotoShop, for each one. The bright neon colors, for instance, come from removing all blacks and whites from the image. Next, she projected the image on a canvas, sketched the outline, and then painted it in oil paints.

Hancock and her staff in Campus Life and Student Success are busy filling the renovated CUB with artwork by student, alumni and other artists.

At the suggestion of Hand Art Center Director Tonya Cribb Curran, Hancock and her staff looked through the art center’s collection of student artwork and borrowed several pieces to display.

Hancock also has asked alumni to donate their artwork or sell them for a “very reasonable price,” just like a few students have. Adding these aesthetic touches to the CUB has been an unexpected joy, she said.

Lua Hancock

“It’s been such a professional pleasure of my career that I didn’t expect,” Hancock said. “It’s just been this very cool, very organic part of this project that I just love. I think it’s the icing on the cake for this building.”

“The Green Room”

Chris Kelly, ’18, a Studio Art major, recently donated his second painted surfboard to the CUB, and one of these now hangs in the stairwell in the CUB’s South Lobby. Both surfboards were part of his Senior Art Exhibit last year.

“Surfing is a big passion of mine,” says Chris Kelly ’18, with his donated artwork in the CUB. Just like each wave is different, each of his painted surfboards are unique, due to his process of pouring on the colors. He likes to paint surfboards that he’s actually used while surfing. “It just adds to the meaning; it’s more rooted in a way.”

“I feel really honored and I feel like that’s the right place for those boards, giving back to the school and the professors,” he said. “Without them, without you guys, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m eternally grateful for everything you guys have done.”

A surfer since age 9, Kelly joined the Stetson Surf Club in his freshman year and surfed frequently with fellow members of the club, some of whom remain his closest friends. Kelly now spends the winter in Cocoa Beach as lead lifeguard at the Cocoa Beach Aquatic Center and travels back home to Southampton, New York, for the summers. He enjoys surfing in both places.

In the CUB stairway, a sign beside the board calls it “Green Room,” a term that describes the space inside the barrel of a wave.

“The light penetrating through the top little chandelier of the wave, it’s a thin layer of water, so it will penetrate through and it actually makes that whole tube, like green-bluish,” he said. “And you say green room because it’s the color and it feels like, depending on how big the wave is, you’re in a big room inside of the wave.”

Kelly estimates he has about 35 surfboards, and one of his painted surfboards is on display in Cocoa Beach City Hall. He is preparing for a solo show this summer in Sag Harbor, New York.

An Eclectic Mix of Art and Artists

Throughout the CUB, pieces of artwork are slowly appearing here and there. Inside the Student Lounge on the second floor, a mural of Stetson students was painted by current student Solstice Backus-Little.

Student Solstice Backus-Little added bursts of color around the faces of Stetson students in a mural in the Student Lounge.

Outside Hancock’s office on the second floor, in the reception area, hangs a beautiful collection of porcelain plates and matching Christmas cards, showing various Stetson buildings. These are based on the original watercolors painted by the late Professor Fred L. Messersmith, chair of the Art Department for 30 years. 

Downstairs in the North Lobby, under the stairwell, sits a bear sculpture made of tire treads. Krystal Sellers created “Sorrowful,” the mixed-media bear in 2012 for her senior art show, using ripped-up tire treads found on roadways where bears had been struck and killed by vehicles.

“Sorrowful,” by Krystal Sellers tells the sad story of bears getting hit and killed by vehicles in Florida.

Nearby, pedestal display cases will soon be added in the North Lobby with artwork by students and retired Art Professor Gary Bolding. These pieces will rotate out every quarter, engaging students, faculty, staff and visitors as they enter the Commons Dining Hall.

Inside the Commons, sculptures by professional artist Barbara Sorensen will be installed on Monday, April 29, high on the south wall. Stetson Art Professor Dan Gunderson is overseeing the installation of the shaped-wire sculptures created by Sorensen, a noted artist who has exhibited her work at Stetson and recently donated several sculptures to the university.

Around the patio outside the CUB’s North Lobby, several sculptures have been donated from the private collection of the late George Herbst, former Stetson Vice President for Business and CFO. Herbst is credited with taking the lead to beautify Stetson’s grounds when he came to work here in 2009, and the patio area is named “George’s Place” in his honor.

Lua Hancock, Vice President of Campus Life and Student Success, talks about six of the 10 “WeAreOne” tapestries, created by Annette Morton ’18, that are hanging temporarily in her office, behind her. All 10 of the tapestries will soon be hung in the CUB’s Coffee Shop.

Inside the Coffee Shop, framed collections of Stetson’s old student mailboxes were recently hung on the walls. And soon ten digitally manipulated photographic images by alumna Annette Morton  ’18 will hang in the Coffee Shop, as well. These images, printed on cotton percale fabric, are called “WeAreOne” and symbolize the history and future of humans’ relationship with the planet.

“The touches in this building, everything from the furniture to the art, we’ve gotten a lot of student input on and really thought very purposely about,” Hancock added. “Even the tables downstairs are handcrafted cypress wood. It’s been a really, really fun project.” 

-Cory Lancaster