The final piece of the Centennial is now in place. As part of Tech’s 100th birthday celebration, a sculpture was commissioned to both commemorate the past and inspire future students. Ascension, a 52-foot tall, 7,000-pound stainless steel artwork by Hoss Haley, has been installed between Dixie Avenue and Centennial Plaza.
According to the artist, the sculpture’s height and stepped composition “convey the concept of ascension. The random shaped blocks suggest that growth is not entirely linear, but has many turns and diversions. As long as one continues to grow, to persevere, to add experiences, there is no limit to what a person or an institution can achieve.”
Laura Clemons, centennial coordinator, said that Haley perfectly balanced the classic architecture of campus with a modern artwork.
“It's really important that the art be site-specific and that it's suitable for the setting,” Clemons said. “Ascension references the columns fronting most of our buildings, so it's consistent with the overall architecture of campus. But by using a more contemporary medium – stainless steel – the sculpture makes a statement about not only our first century, but our present and our future. Hoss gave us everything we asked for and more."
In conceptualizing Ascension, Haley said he combined the information about the project provided by Tech and his impression of the school itself, including its architecture.
“It’s sort of like cooking,” he said. “I started throwing it all in the pot and stirring it around a bit, and it comes together. I felt like it needed to be something very vertical, with a kind of upward thrust to it.
“Because of [Tech’s] classical architecture,” he added, “there was an opportunity to throw some contrast to that with something a bit starker with the use of stainless steel.”
Along with the contrast the material provides, Haley chose stainless steel because of its long-lasting, maintenance-free nature.
“It comes across as a clean, elegant material and suggests positive forward movement,” Haley explained.
Haley has created public art for other universities, including Valdosta State, Sam Houston State, and North Carolina State, along with clients such as Lowe’s and the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
The university will complete landscaping and installation of LED lighting this spring. The sculpture is expected to be officially dedicated during the current semester. The sculpture was funded through the Centennial Plaza construction project at the cost of $57,500, and was selected by the Centennial Art Committee.
“Art tends to elevate our thinking, causing us to reflect on both the artwork and ourselves as we view it,” said Phil Oldham, president of Tennessee Tech. “I am committed to bringing more public art to campus to facilitate this.”
Ascension joins Roman Forum, the sculpture series located in front of the Bryan Fine Arts Building, as public art on the Tech campus. Installed in 1985, Roman Forum was cleaned and restored last fall.