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Skyspace brings beauty, art to busy street corner

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Celestial vaulting
Right: “Celestial vaulting” creates the illusion that the sky is aligned with the plane of the observatory ceiling.

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

The southwest corner of Halsted Street and Roosevelt Road is now more than an intersection: it’s a “cause of celebration and commemoration.”

The reason? The new UIC Skyspace sculpture by artist James Turrell, formally unveiled June 2 in a public ceremony with city and campus dignitaries.

“It celebrates and enriches a growing community of young people,” said Judith Russi Kirshner, dean of the College of Architecture and the Arts.

The sculpture and its home, the Earl Langdon Neal Plaza, are a portal to UIC, said Chancellor Sylvia Manning, “a landmark destination of great art that makes the campus stronger.”

“It joins the family of great public art in Chicago,” she said.

U of I President B. Joseph White said he especially likes the artwork’s water feature, which masks the sounds of the city.

“It inspires peace,” he said.

White recommended visiting the UIC Skyspace at sundown, when the sculpture is at its most dramatic.

“That’s when it really sparkles,” he said.

The interactive piece “will be enjoyed by many for decades to come,” said Gregory Knight, deputy commissioner of visual arts for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

The sculpture was chosen after input from UIC, the neighborhood and the city.

Turrell said it was a bit of a challenge to design artwork for an urban corner.

His first visit to UIC came before the South Campus construction began.

“I see the transformation that has happened in this area,” he said. “I’m really impressed.

“I am honored to now be a part of your city.”

The plaza is named in honor of Neal, a Chicago lawyer and member of the U of I Board of Trustees who was instrumental in the creation of the Chicago campus.

“He made a lifetime of contribution to the U of I and especially this campus,” Manning said.

Members of the Neal family also attended the dedication.

Below: L-R: Adrian Smith, consulting design partner in the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and a 1969 UIC graduate in architecture, chats with Skyspace artist James Turrell and Judith Russi Kirshner, dean of the College of Architecture and the Arts.

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin Adrian Smith, James Turrell, Judith Russi Kirshner

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