Chancellor Roger Brown introduced artist John Henry at the dedication of Henry’s creation “Sky Toucher,” a ten-foot painted aluminum sculpture located in Lansing Court outside the UTC University Center. This gift of outdoor sculpture comes from the collection of Ruth S. and A. William Holmberg, Jr.
“My work is about the public, the built environment, the urban landscape, and indeed the notion that the strong abstract/non-objective statement can indeed speak globally,” Henry said.
Henry spoke of the controversy surrounding public art, or art in public places generally defined today as supported by public funds. He acknowledged the ongoing debate which questions the appropriateness of public funded arts projects, dating back to 1965 when Congress established the National Endowment for the Arts.
“There is also a lively debate as to the structure or makeup of art in public places programs and indeed, the selection process. The notion that a few should decide what the many must look at for generations is a thorny issue. However, history more often than not supports the practice of the selection of strong, bold individual statements by artists who are obviously not chosen by any kind of plebiscite,” Henry said.
Saying the gift of art to an institution can often be a “win, win, win situation,” Henry described the giver’s “satisfaction of sharing something of value to them, with a larger community.”
“The recipient has the opportunity to enhance its own environment, and the work as well as the artist has a new opportunity for an expanded audience. The work can even be said to have an altogether new life.
‘Sky Toucher’s’ new life begins here today at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga thanks to my good friend Ruth Holmberg. I thank Ruth for having the vision to see ‘Sky Toucher’ on this campus and I thank the University for giving it a place of prominence,” Henry said.
Henry is known internationally for large-scale public works of art, found in museums, corporate, public and private collections as well as the collections of American cities and states. His works are also exhibited in the public collections of various European and Asian municipalities.
He attended the University of Kentucky, University of Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago, where he received a Ford Foundation grant, the Edward L Ryerson Fellowship and earned a BFA. He received an Honorary Doctor of Arts from the University of Kentucky in 1996.
Chancellor Roger Brown and artist John Henry
Ruth Holmberg, center, speaks with guests at the reception following the dedication
UTC Landscaping Committee member Linda Collins and John Henry