AUGUST 26, 2022 — UTSA has accepted a gift that will advance its vision to create beautiful, pedestrian-friendly public spaces that enhance downtown San Antonio.
Today, the university began installation of an 18-foot tall Corten Steel sculpture titled Drum Rhythm No. 11 by Fletcher C. Benton (1931-2019), a prominent American artist and sculptor of large-scale steel abstract geometric works.
Benton is best known for his kinetic art. His work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Victoria and Albert Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and many others. In 2008, he received the International Sculpture Center’s Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award.
Ashlie Benton, daughter of the late Fletcher Benton, collaborated with Centro San Antonio to donate the sculpture to UTSA on behalf of The Fletcher Benton Foundation for the Visual Arts.
A construction crew works on installing the 18-foot tall Corten Steel sculpture titled Drum Rhythm No. 11 by Fletcher C. Benton at San Pedro I in Downtown San Antonio.
“UTSA is committed to developing beautiful public spaces that enhance the vitality of downtown San Antonio,” said Veronica Salazar, UTSA chief financial officer and senior vice president for business affairs. “As we conceptualized the new facility for our School of Data Science and National Security Collaboration Center, we sought to incorporate public artwork as a central element.”
“Our close partnership with Centro San Antonio provided valuable input, supporting our efforts to ensure spaces at UTSA—and throughout San Antonio—serve as vibrant and diverse cultural centers. We are appreciative to Ms. Benton for sharing her father’s sculpture with San Antonians, who will enjoy his incredible talent,” Salazar said.
Drum Rhythm No. 11 is one of several works by Fletcher Benton, who lived and worked in San Francisco. The piece, one of three in his Drum Rhythm series, is an exploration of mass, volume and tilting forms in space, explained Michael Roby, director of San Francisco-based Fletcher Benton Studio.
Spanning nine feet in diameter and weighing 3,500 pounds, the drum and drumsticks in Benton’s sculpture are representative of the “lyrical playfulness that is at the heart of many Fletcher Benton works,” said Roby.
The Corten or weathered steel gives the sculpture its unique, rust-like appearance when exposed to the elements. The tilting form adds movement to the massive structure, while its size and subject matter invite peaceful introspection.
Benton’s artwork will be installed at the northwest corner of San Pedro I (SPI), located at 506 Dolorosa St., adjacent to San Pedro Creek. When SPI opens in spring 2023, it will house the university’s National Security Collaboration Center and new School of Data Science.
“Much like the work that will take place at the UTSA School of Data Science, Fletcher Benton’s work is a convergence of the arts, sciences and mathematics,” UTSA Vice President for University Relations Teresa Niño said. “This public artwork will speak volumes for our city’s diverse population while helping to further transform San Antonio’s high-tech corridor into a destination.”
The sculpture will be a key feature of the exterior spaces that UTSA is creating around SPI. Featuring public art and native plants, these areas will provide a pleasant, natural environment where students and visitors can rest, study, socialize and play.
The sculpture and the natural spaces are part of the university’s larger plan to create a campus that embraces San Antonio’s urban environment, showcases its unique art and culture, and provides public visibility to local artists.
At the same time, the addition of Benton’s sculpture to the UTSA Art Collection and its installation at SPI aligns with the university's vision to enhance the educational environment for students, faculty and staff.
"Fletcher C. Benton’s Drum Rhythm No. 11 is monumental and poetic. It is a thrilling addition to the university’s growing art collection and will be an enduring source of inspiration that sparks the imagination," said Arturo Infante Almeida, art specialist and curator of the UTSA Art Collection.
In addition to Drum Rhythm No. 11, SPI will feature two large murals, one on the west wall facing San Pedro Creek and a second that will wrap around the corner of the northeast wall facing Dolorosa St. The murals are a joint project of the UTSA Office of Community Relations and the City of San Antonio’s Department of Arts and Culture. The university has invited eight local artists to submit proposals for the murals, four for each project.
“The Benton sculpture and the murals that will grace San Pedro I create yet another way for the city and university to discover together,” said David Mongeau, founding director of the UTSA School of Data Science. “I can’t help but see them as mediums for using data science to enrich our engagement with art.”
SPI is part of UTSA’s master plan to expand its Downtown Campus footprint. Plans call for a second Dolorosa St. building to be constructed west of San Pedro Creek. Together, the two facilities will enable UTSA to expand its efforts in innovation, entrepreneurship and career-engaged learning, advancing economic prosperity in the center city.
As UTSA expands its Downtown Campus, its partnerships with the city, county, local businesses and community organizations continue to be central to its long-term plan.
Centro San Antonio facilitated the gift of Drum Rhythm No. 11 to UTSA, working closely with Ashlie Benton. The nonprofit is dedicated to creating a more beautiful, more playful, more welcoming and more prosperous downtown.
Public art is essential to creating that kind of downtown, according to Matt Brown, CEO of Centro. A partner like UTSA, with its plans to build a campus that embraces the city’s urban vibe, is key to that goal.
"We are excited and grateful for UTSA’s investments in downtown from their integration with the Southwest School of Art to the new visioning for the ITC. We thank the Benton Family Foundation and UTSA for partnering to install Fletcher Benton’s playful sculpture for all the students, faculty, residents and visitors to enjoy at the beautiful new data science center,” said Brown.
"Over the past three years, Centro's Art Everywhere Initiative has connected artists, owners and downtown stakeholders to add over 45 art installations in the public sphere. We are so proud of this latest addition, which will elevate and inspire the city's arts and culture scene for years to come."
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