One aspect of Temple’s campus that contributes to its beautiful scenery is the rich variety of artwork. From the Bell Tower to the “Red Owl,” there are plenty of different styles of art to observe.
Though students pass by these works of art on a daily basis, few likely know much about the creative pieces that adorn Main Campus. For some, the art may just blend into their surroundings.
But alumnus Chris Purdom is one individual who took notice.
A Philadelphia poet and graphic artist, Purdom has always had an interest in art. He created www.philart.net, a Web site that contains his own pictures and descriptions of nearly all of Philadelphia’s public art. Purdom began the project of cataloguing the city’s art in 1996.
“Originally, I just wanted to take pictures, but I started really getting interested in who the people were in the sculptures, who the artists were, how the people were related to the artists and finding other works by the same artists,” he said. “So over time, it built out to the way it is now.”
His Web site currently contains information on 547 works of art, a number that continues to grow. The site also features a tour of Temple’s Main Campus art. Here are some of the more iconic pieces of artwork from around campus.
Often considered the center point of campus, the Bell Tower (originally called “The Campanile,” after the Italian word meaning “bell tower”) stands just more than 100 feet high. The concrete tower was built in 1965, designed by architects Nolen Swinburne and Associates. It was constructed through funds from the Paley Foundation as a gift to the university and was dedicated along with the Paley Library on Oct. 20 and 21, 1966.
The tower bells were cast by Van Bergen Bell Foundries in Heiligerlee, Holland, and first rung on Dec. 17, 1965. Although the bells themselves are no longer used, the Bell Tower remains an iconic monument to Temple students and is the site for many campus events and protests.
“Russell Conwell” Head
Located in the Founder’s Garden, this bust of Temple’s founder Russell Conwell is a unique memorial. Sculpted by Boris Blai and placed in the garden in the spring of 1968, the bust marks the founder’s burial place. The bronze statue – supported by a granite base – is 3-feet-6-inches high and 2-feet-3-inches wide.
Standing 19-feet-6-inches high, Joseph Brown’s Two Athletes statue is a hard piece of artwork to miss on Temple’s campus. The bronze statue was commissioned by the alumni of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and placed in front of McGonigle Hall in the fall of 1969. The statue displays a gymnastically impossible pose: a male figure reaching vertically, supporting a female figure doing a handstand.
The work caused a fair share of controversy when it was put in place, as Brown made the decision to partially clothe the male figure and have the female figure remain nude. Members of the Temple community at the time criticized the statue for being sexually discriminating. Brown insisted he made the decision because he did not wish to see the male figure’s most unmentionable appendage become the victim of vandalism.
Seated in Alumni Circle at the intersection of Berks Mall and Liacouras Walk, the Red Owl has become a familiar sight among the Temple community over the past two decades. Crafted by world-renowned Italian sculptor Beniamino Bufano, the owl was donated to Temple in 1988 by the Bell Atlantic Corporation. Hewed from flecked Italian earth-red marble, the sculpture weighs 3,000 pounds.
In the late ‘60s, members of the student body, community and local government began to propose ideas about how to make the Cecil B. Moore subway stop safer and more attractive. In a joint project, the city remodeled the subway station and Temple built the adjacent Columbia Plaza.
The east side of the plaza incorporated a granite “Stonehenge-esque” structure, which served as a symbolic entranceway to the plaza. Designed by Richard Fleischner, the blocks sit atop a grassy plot, some three feet higher than the rest of the plaza.
Black Rock Mesa
Composed of a number of black metal geometric forms, “Black Rock Mesa” adorns the walkway on the west side of Ritter Hall. The piece was created by New York sculptor Glenn Zweygardt. It was presented to the university by Philip I. Berman, then the chairperson of the board and chief executive of Hess’s Incorporated in 1978.
A prominent feature of Beury Beach, Hurry was one of two William King pieces brought to campus in 1981. The abstract piece – which displays two individuals running off together – stands 10 feet tall and extends 30 feet in length. The other King work displayed on campus for a time that year was Story, which depicted a male figure smoking.
The Temple Fine Arts Committee chose Hurry to stay on campus because it felt the piece was more in tune with campus life. The two figures could easily represent two students scrambling to their feet and rushing off to class. The Class of 1980 set aside $28,000 from graduation fees in order to buy the two King pieces for their class gift. Story was purchased for the Health Sciences Center.
Lincoln the Lawyer
In addition to the bust of Russell Conwell, Temple’s campus also boasts a bust of another notable historical figure in Abraham Lincoln. Dr. Emil Seletz, who studied medicine at Temple and became an internationally prominent neurosurgeon, was also a widely recognized sculptor. He donated his bust of the 14th U.S. president to the law school in 1979. Honest Abe still looks on from his pedestal in front of the Beasley School of Law building on Broad Street.
Kevin Brosky can be reached at email@example.com.