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Monday, October 4, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 30

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Regents to consider new campus artwork

Cougar News Staff

The UH System Board of Regents' Administration and Finance Committee will have art on its mind when it meets today to discuss acquisitions and installations at several System locations.

Perhaps the most unique of the committee's art selection considerations involves the UH Fine Arts Building, currently undergoing a $5 million renovation to convert spaces formerly occupied by the School of Music into art facilities.

The Regents will consider a four-part art installation for the building's exterior by artists Randy Twaddle, who earned his master's in painting from UH in 1996, and David A. Thompson. The artwork will take the form of aluminum and neon lettering to be installed on the building's north and south sides and in the courtyard.

"Our program for this artwork creates abbreviations for the (eight) departments in ... the Fine Arts Building ... by dropping all the vowels found in those names," the artists wrote in their proposal.

"We believe that naming by abbreviation is appropriate and significant in the context of our 'information age' culture which prizes speed and brevity over elaboration," they said. "That our abbreviations slow down rather than speed up the reading process is an intended irony."

The vowel-dropping means the sign for the Blaffer Gallery, for example, will read "Blffr Gllry," while Interior Design becomes "Ntrr Dsgn."

The lettering will be a mixture of upper- and lower-case sans-serif letters that will be accented by white or red neon, some of which will blink.

The artists said they took the cue for their work from businesses in strip shopping centers along the Gulf Freeway, which identify themselves with illuminated signs.

"(The installation) will create conversation, conjecture, interest, beauty and continued pleasure for those who see it daily," the artists said.

Also on the agenda is consideration of a proposal for a large sculpture of a human head to be placed in the lobby of the new Melcher Center for Public Broadcasting, scheduled to open next spring at UH.

The 12-foot-high head will be made of a steel frame covered by a "high-tech 'skin'" made of projection lenses, circuit boards, cables, wires and other items associated with modern technology.

"Its aim is to embody an unconventional, gently surreal beauty of our age," the Regents' summary said. The sculpture, called <I>Signal<P>, was designed by engineer Stuart Schecter and artist Ralph Helmick. Helmick also designed the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial in Austin.

Other artworks to be considered by the Regents are a terrazzo floor, painting and concrete form installation at UH-Downtown and the creation of a "Millennium Plaza" art environment at UH-Victoria.

The cost of each of the works would be covered by the Systemwide 1-percent-for-art policy, which sets aside a portion of construction costs of a building for art installations.

Also on the agenda is a request for permission to close the portion of Calhoun Road between Texas Spur 5 and Wheeler Street. The portion of Calhoun was scheduled for closure when the campus portion of Spur 5 was completed, blocking access to Calhoun from the Gulf Freeway.

According to the agenda, the closed portion of Calhoun will be converted to parking.

The Administration and Finance Committee will also hear reports on the System's "Y2K" preparations and the progress of the PeopleSoft computerized records system installation, as well as a report on the performance of the System endowment, which increased in value to $413.1 million between March 31 and June 30, 1999 -- a $4.9 million total increase.

The committee meetings will begin at 8 a.m. in the Athletic/Alumni Center's Melcher Board Room.

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