Jacksonville University dedicates ‘Obelisk’ public art

The installation is in the roundabout at the Arlington campus’s main entrance along University Boulevard.

Jacksonville University dedicated the public art installation in the roundabout in front of the Arlington campus’s main entrance on University Boulevard on Sept. 20.
Jacksonville University dedicated the public art installation in the roundabout in front of the Arlington campus’s main entrance on University Boulevard on Sept. 20.
Jacksonville University
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Jacksonville University dedicated the 20-foot glass-and-steel obelisk in the center of the roundabout at the main entrance of the university’s campus along University Boulevard in Arlington on Sept. 20.

In a ceremony at Terry Concert Hall, JU donated the custom-made sculpture by artist Shan Shan Sheng, titled “Obelisk,” to the city of Jacksonville through the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville.

Sheng designed, fabricated and installed the piece with support from the Renew Arlington CRA, the Cultural Council and longtime JU partner Haskell. Its location within the roundabout, which serves more than 30,000 vehicles daily, is the main welcoming point to the university.

“We’re grateful for the immense generosity that made this meaningful piece of public art possible,” JU President Tim Cost said in a news release.

“A premier private institution has a crucial responsibility to engage in the community that surrounds it. We are a vital gateway to Downtown. Jacksonville University has long been dedicated to promoting the arts and with this installation, we’re pleased to be able to share that with our Arlington neighbors.”

Below the glass obelisk are bronze panels embossed with images of the local community and its history.

From left, Haskell President and CEO Jim O’Leary; Jacksonville Transportation Authority CEO Nat Ford; Jacksonville University Instructor of English Chris Dew; Patty Donahoo, who through the Raymond Prahl Charitable Trust, provided funding for the creation of the art; JU Linda Berry Stein College of Fine Arts & Humanities Dean Tim Snyder; artist Shan Shan Sheng; JU President Tim Cost; and Linda Berry Stein.
Jacksonville University

One image celebrates Norman Studios, founded in the Old Arlington neighborhood in 1916. It produced silent films featuring African American casts and addressed social issues of the day. 

Another panel depicts the Mathews Bridge, which connects Arlington to Downtown, while an aircraft carrier represents a celebration of the area’s strong U.S. Navy presence. A fourth panel will be used as a dedication plaque. 

“Shan Shan Sheng’s Obelisk stands as a monumental work that recalls the history of our community and invites us to imagine a bold future. Public art humanizes public space,” Timothy Snyder, dean of the Linda Berry Stein College of Fine Arts & Humanities, said in the release.

The university and the Cultural Council selected Sheng from a yearlong national search that generated nearly 40 proposals from artists across the world. 

Sheng has completed more than 30 public art pieces across the U.S., Europe and Asia. Her work has earned awards and honors in the U.S. and Taiwan. She lives and maintains a studio in San Francisco, the release states.

The obelisk is the latest piece of the university’s efforts to revitalize the surrounding Arlington neighborhood. The corridor of growth stretches from the “College Park” mixed-use development at northeast Arlington Expressway and University Boulevard; to the recently opened Wawa; the IDEA Public School River Bluff campus; and north to the Jackson Commons student apartment complex, the JU Medical Mall anchored by the JU Health Sciences Complex and Nelson Occupational Therapy House, Dolphin Pointe Landing skilled nursing facility and the future LECOM College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Founded in 1934, JU offers more than 100 majors, minors and programs, including degrees in nursing, business, law, marine science, engineering, finance and psychology, as well as those in specialized fields including aviation, communication sciences and disorders, film, animation and health care administration.