Public Art at Rice

When I was at Rice, the focal point of the campus was the statue of William Marsh Rice. There were no other statues or artworks. Now there are many. Here are some that Steve and saw at the Centennial Celebration in October. Click on each photo to enlarge it. For descriptions and a map see

James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” epitomizes the Rice Centennial for me, emphasizing the “big picture” we talked about so much as freshmen and looking both forward and heavenward with “no upper limit.” It is a Skyspace that has a built-in light show around dawn and sunset. We saw it as the sun rose over the Texas Medical Center across Main Street from the Rice Campus. Inside there are granite benches to seat about 40 people. It is ideal for quiet reflection or for listening to small chamber groups from the nearby Shepherd School of Music.

My favorite of the new works is “Mirror” by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa. I had seen a similar work on the campus of MIT in Cambridge, a single, seated see-through figure made of numbers and mathematical symbols. Rice got two facing figures made of metal letters from eight different languages. The students interpret them as communicating or even falling in love. It’s a great place to take a picture of old friends like my Rice roommate Carolyn Cox Cohan. We were in the 50th entering class; this year’s freshman class is the 100th.

Inside Fondren Library hangs a flotilla of gondolas by Lino Tagliapietra. I first saw his work at the Renwick Gallery in DC, courtesy my friend Fern Bleckner, a Smithsonian curator there. The work at Rice is named “Endeavor” and was donated by our friends Elizabeth and Albert Kidd. In January 2013 I had the pleasure of meeting Lino Tagliapietra at Art Palm Beach.

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