Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story by Jane Ford:
February 22, 2011 — Traffic was halted on Rugby Road Tuesday as a crane hoisted a bronze Henry Moore sculpture that stands almost 7 feet tall and carefully placed it in front of the University of Virginia Art Museum.
The figure, "Seated Woman, 1958-59," is on indefinite loan from the Henry Moore Foundation.
Moore used natural materials as a point of departure for creating sculpture, museum director Bruce Boucher said. "He would model something that was inspired by a stone or pebble and these would evolve into forms that were both recognizably human but at the same time were not individual. They were archetypal."
The small bronze cast of Moore's initial model for the bronze will also be on display in the museum, but the large sculpture holds pride-of-place on the renovated landscape in front of the museum.
"The University of Virginia has many great aspects, including its architecture, but it has always lacked notable works of sculpture by the great moderns," said Richard Guy Wilson, chair of U.Va.'s Committee on.Public Art. "The addition of a sculpture by one of the 20th century's greatest artists will assist in identifying the Art Museum as the entrance to the Arts Grounds."
The goal of the renovation project was to revitalize the landscape setting created in 1929 by then-dean of the School of Architecture, Edmund S. Campbell, who designed the Bayly Building.
"A new terrace extends the reach of the museum out toward Rugby Road and toward passersby," Boucher said. "The open-air sculpture gallery will help to proclaim that the museum is the entrance to the new Betsy and John Casteen Arts Grounds."
Although the revitalization gives the museum a fresh look, its designer, Rachel Lloyd, respected Campbell's landscape plan, Mary Hughes, University Landscape Architect, said. Lloyd is a 1996 alumna of the Architecture School graduate landscape program who now works for the Charlottesville office of AECOM .
"It is one of the more intact historic landscapes along Rugby Road," Hughes said.
The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as contributing to the Rugby Road-University Corner Historic District, and the importance of the landscape was recognized in the University's Historic Preservation Framework Plan. "This building and landscape were identified as needing to be treated with great care and respect," Hughes said.
Over time, plants and trees had engulfed the setting and obscured the view of the building. On the upper terrace, new stone pavers mark the area where plants and a holly bush were removed. Overgrown American boxwoods were replaced with Green Beauty boxwoods, a cultivar that grows more slowly. The new plantings allow a clear view of the architectural fragments placed in the space by Campbell, including a cast-iron Corinthian capital from the 1895 Rotunda fire. Four teak benches provide seating.
A new lower terrace, where the statue is set, was created by removing two diseased and weather-damaged gingko trees. The former grassy area was paved and reinforced to hold statuary. The new space boasts a stone bench, and the brick wall behind it will be planted with climbing hydrangea.
The plant will not have a "negative impact on the masonry," Hughes said. "It does not pull out mortar like ivy. The hydrangea has a beautiful flower and the plant will create an ornamental interest both when in flower and not."
The refurbishment creates more open space and better flow of pedestrian traffic. The seating on the two terraces will extend the use of the museum during functions such as Final Fridays and provide gathering areas for visiting school groups.
"Also, the new terrace helps signify that this is an art museum. It makes the function of the museum more apparent," Hughes said.
The lower bank is planted with sweet boxwood, a low-growing evergreen with insignificant blooms but a lovely fragrance in winter, Hughes said.
"People walking along the sidewalk will be surprised and enjoy the fragrant scent," she said.
New lighting will bring focus to the statue and building façade at night and surveillance cameras are in place to protect the sculpture.
Vice Provost for the Arts Elizabeth Hutton Turner said, "The newly renovated terraces provide a wonderful glimpse of the past, present and future of the arts at the University. The new plantings have opened the view to the grand portico of the Bayly Building and the avenue of shrubs open the way to the Arts Grounds and signal great things for the future plans for expanded facilities and activities on the Arts Grounds including our new public arts initiatives at the University."
The landscape revitalization project was funded by a $250,000 grant from the Grounds Improvement Fund, created in 2007 by the Board of Visitors and administered by the Office of the Architect. A second Grounds Improvement Fund grant for $20,000 supports the installation of the sculpture.