Published: May 30, 2024

UT Acquires “Love” Sculpture by Robert Indiana Thanks To Generous Donation

“LOVE” has arrived on The University of Tampa campus.

Today UT announced it has — through the generous philanthropy of Gene and Patsy McNichols — acquired one of the most famous sculptures in the world: a 6-foot tall “LOVE” sculpture by Robert Indiana.

LOVE sculpture
Today UT announced it has — through the generous philanthropy of Gene and Patsy McNichols — acquired one of the most famous sculptures in the world: a 6-foot tall “LOVE” sculpture by Robert Indiana.  

“LOVE” has been described by the Museum of Modern Art as a Pop Art masterpiece that “continues to hold an important place in the history of art—and in the hearts of people all over the world.” Indiana first developed the iconic design in 1964, and the first “LOVE” sculpture was created out of core-ten steel in 1970. Today there are more than 50 iconic “LOVE” editions installed around the world, including in cities throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia. The artist tilted the letter “O” so that the four stacked letters form a perfect square, but also to remind viewers of the fragility of love itself.

“As many say, we need more love in the world,” said UT President Ron Vaughn, who is retiring from UT on May 31.

“LOVE” will be located in a lawn to the east of Plant Hall in front of the Southard Family Building. “This will be a highly visible campus location where it can be enjoyed by students and the public,” Vaughn said.

Gene and Patsy McNichols made the donation to purchase the sculpture in honor of Gene’s father, Robert L. McNichols, who founded the McNichols Company, The Hole Story. Gene and Patsy McNichols are longtime supporters of UT and were also donors to the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values. Gene McNichols is a chair emeritus of the UT Board of Trustees.

The donation will also fund an innovative and interactive sculpture trail, anchored by the “LOVE” sculpture, that would add 15-20 sculptures to the 110-acre downtown campus.

Sculptures chosen for the sculpture trail will include pieces of varying size, style and mediums by nationally and internationally renowned artists. The pieces are being chosen or commissioned expressly to stimulate conversation and learning about desirable human characteristics and qualities.

The sculpture trail will be officially called the McNichols Sculpture Trail.

Two additional sculptures already acquired for the trail were crafted by Colorado-based metal sculptor Kevin Robb. Both pieces are made of stainless steel, and are approximately 8 feet tall. The first, titled “What Was Vincent Thinking?,” represents the quality of creativity. The second sculpture, ”Poised,” represents the qualities of grace and elegance.

Four other sculptures have also been acquired:

  • “Zephyr” by Jeremy Guy, which represents the quality of persistence
  • “Open Window Monument” by Ted Schaal, which represents a spiritual characteristic
  • “DNA of Success” by Robert Romero, which represents continued learning
  • “On a Roll” by Jack Hill, which represents a sense of humor

Gene McNichols said they are glad to be a part of Vaughn’s tremendous vision. “We hope the campus community will be inspired by thinking about desirable human qualities.”

The installation dates and unveilings of the initial sculptures will be forthcoming.

Vaughn said the McNichols Sculpture Trail, which has been in the works for several years, will be another way in which UT strives to develop the whole person and help students live a well-rounded life and have a positive impact on others and on society.

“To my knowledge, UT is one of few universities in the world which enriches education via a campus art appreciation program, and which also inspires students and others – via the sculpture trail, art in buildings, campus galleries and associated art programs – to develop as individuals, and to positively impact our community,” Vaughn said.

As part of his almost 30-year presidency, Vaughn, in partnership with his wife Renée, has made UT’s campus an even more reflective and stimulating learning environment by adding art collections in many buildings on campus – including academic, administrative, athletic and residential facilities. These collections feature original art by Florida artists, and today there are hundreds of pieces of art and sculpture throughout campus. For example, 87 works by artists Sara Conca and 53 by Barbara Krupp are exhibited in the recently completed Jenkins Health and Technology Building, and about 54 pieces of Audrey Phillips’ abstract art is located in the Southard Family Building. Sixty art pieces by contemporary self-taught artist Ummarid “Tony” Eitharong are featured in the renovated Smiley Hall and the new Grand Center, which opens this Fall 2024 semester.

The sculpture trail will ultimately incorporate existing sculptures on campus, which include such landmark pieces as the Susan and John Sykes Ars Sonora, Sticks of Fire, Hunting Dogs, the large-scale stainless steel interlocking UT logo, and various bronze Spartan figures.

Kendra Frorup, UT associate professor of art and design; Scott Gossen, assistant vice president of Design, Construction and Facilities; and art consultant Haley Rose Cohen have worked with the Vaughns on choosing, procuring and placing the sculptures. The initial pieces of art were chosen through extensive research and discussions with art historians, sculptors, collectors, gallery owners and through attendance at sculpture centers and shows.

Once completed, the McNichols Sculpture Trail will feature a website, self-guided tour and conversation guide. The Vaughns will continue to work with Gene and Patsy McNichols and incoming President Teresa Abi-Nader Dahlberg on the sculpture trail over the months ahead.

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