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UNCP has a new outdoor sculpture

May 6, 2009

A new campus landmark was installed on April 15 at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

A sculpture by California artist Katsuhisa Sakai came to rest in the well-tended landscape bed under a trio of Crape Myrtle trees.  In the Student Quad, it is one of the University’s most visible locations.


Katsuhisa Sakai (left) with Martin Slann

Sakai supervised the installation of the rock sculpture on a concrete pedestal. Titled “Tanza,” the artist said his work has special meaning for students.

“Tanza means to sit straight and follow your thoughts,” he said. “It’s about focus and problem solving, so I though it a good concept for students.”

“It will provoke a conversation,” he promised.

Indeed, the sculpture is straight-backed with armrests. It is made from joined pieces of shaped, blue basalt from Mexico.

It was made to last an eternity, Sakai said.

“I am telling my grandchildren that they can see my work at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke,” he said. “And, it’s maintenance-free because it is very hard rock.”

Dr. Martin Slann, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, was on hand to view the sculpture on its first full day.

“This is a genuine and superb work of art that will be enjoyed for many generations to come,” Dean Slann said. “It has a permanent place on this campus where thousands of students, faculty, and staff pass on a daily basis. 

“We are very grateful to Katsuhisa Sakai for traveling from California to dedicate his art to UNCP and to the Department of Art for sponsoring the visit,” he said. “The sculpture demonstrates a quality of peace and serenity that also provides the viewer with an emotional calmness, the sort of impression most of us need during a time of economic difficulty and uncertainty.”

Sakai and Yale classmate and UNCP faculty member James Biederman proposed the gift a little more than a year ago. It is the first permanent, non-representational piece of sculpture on campus.

“A committee was formed, and we may have broken some new ground,” Biederman said. “We found the perfect spot for it.”

Dr. Richard Gay, chair of the Art Department, was a member of the committee.

“I was pleased with the decision of the committee and particularly the site selected for the gift,” Dr. Gay said. “As a gift, it has opened up the possibility that future gifts will follow.”

Sakai agreed, saying thousands of students, faculty and staff will pass it each day. It is positioned along the main walkway in front of the James B. Chavis University Center and the Cafeteria.

“This came as a total surprise to me,” Sakai said. “This is really, really a nice spot.”

Sakai said this is the first permanent outdoor placement of his sculpture in a public space.