Out on a stroll? Check out the campus sculptures

· 5 min read

Out on a stroll? Check out the campus sculptures

Torn Notebook
Craig Chandler | University Communication
Torn Notebook welcomes visitors to campus.

Spring is turning to summer and it’s beckoning us outside.

One way to exercise both body and mind is to take a stroll through campus, and learn a bit about some of the sculptures there. The Sheldon Museum of Art’s Outdoor Sculpture Collection on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s City Campus can provide a welcome respite while practicing social distancing.

This list is just a fraction of the collection, and more information regarding all outdoor works can be found on the Sheldon website. In fact, the Sheldon’s entire collection has been digitized and can be viewed entirely online.

Here, Nebraska Today highlights a few along a path that circles campus. Start the tour near Van Brunt Visitors Center, where Torn Notebook has welcomed all to campus.

Torn Notebook

An icon on campus, this sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosie Van Bruggen greets nearly every visitor to campus and is situated on Madden Garden, the greenspace outside the Van Brundt Visitors Center, where the university and Lincoln meet. It has served as a backdrop for thousands of visitor photos and even played host to a group of alpacas during a costume design class in 2017. It was installed in 1996.

Granite Hi-Chair

Walking north on 12th Street, walkers will see Granite Hi-Chair by Jesus Moroles. This sculpture was installed near the Sheldon in 2016. For Moroles, his use of granite combined both finished and raw stone to metaphorically address how humanity intersects with nature.


Named after one of Michelangelo’s most famous works depicting Mary holding and mourning Jesus after his crucifixion, Pieta, located south of the Sheldon, is a role-reversal by artist Bruno Lucchesi, as it depicts a child mourning a parent and was made in tribute to the artist’s mother who died in 1969. The contemplative bronze sculpture was placed in 1972.

Arietta II

Passersby glancing toward the Arietta II northeast of the Sheldon probably see a vase-shaped metal sculpture. With a closer look, the forms of birds taking flight are present. These birds are derived from American Indian burial mounds in Iowa. This piece by Catherine Ferguson was placed on campus in 1999, on loan to the Sheldon. It became a permanent piece in the collection in 2000. It stands 12 feet high and is constructed of painted steel.

“Prehistoric people living along the Mississippi River in Iowa built Earth mounds in the shapes of animals,” Ferguson told the Daily Nebraskan in a 2016 interview. “I selected birds from these records because of their ability to lift off. I applied the birds to form the larger cone shape, a shape that can suggest the toe shoe of a ballet dancer. Both birds and dancers captivate us because of their defiance of gravity.”

Old Glory

This large red sculpture of I-beams and metal by Mark Di Suvero was installed on campus in 1987. Laying below it, against a blue sky with scattered clouds, it represents the American flag. A popular campus myth says a person can also find the shape of every letter of the English alphabet, depending on the viewer’s vantage point, so spend some time walking around it. Can you find every letter?


This sculpture by Richard Serra stands as a gateway on campus between Andrews and Burnett halls. It frames Mueller Tower and Love Library — two iconic locations on campus — depending on which side you’re standing. Serra oversaw its installment on campus and chose to frame Mueller Tower. It was placed in 1992 and weighs 40 tons. Standing 16 feet high, it was secured in it place by steel girders that sink 20 feet into the ground. A smaller version of this sculpture stands in Munster, Germany.


This stainless steel sculpture of a bare tree often blends into the campus forage around it. Its artist, Roxy Paine, uses art to explore the interactions of nature and artifice in our environment. Breach was installed on campus in 2004 in Donaldson Garden, south of Andrews Hall. The tree stands 40 feet high, and is “somewhere between life and death,” Paine told the Journal Star at its installation.

Prismatic Flake Geometric

This piece, made of granite, steel and concrete, measures more than 35 feet long. Some say they see a surfboard or a boat, but it is a representation of an American Indian tool by Michael Heizer. Heizer’s father was an anthropologist, a fact that inspired the work. It was placed on campus in 1991.


A lot of people walking by this bronze sculpture north of Canfield see a foot or a clenched fist. It can be interpreted many ways, but artist William Tucker named it Ouranos for the Greek mythological ruler. Ouranos means “our heavenly father.” The sculpture was acquired in 1989, and was first placed on steps of the Sheldon in 1990. It later moved to its current location in 1991.

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