The Stuart Collection at UCSD

ucsd stuart collection La Jolla is home to some of the best art galleries in San Diego, and UCSD has become an important and integral part of the art scene here. The Stuart Collection, which began in 1982, is spread throughout the expansive urban campus and includes several sculptures that date back to the 80s. Both indoor and outdoor, the collection’s visual art pieces are quirky, interactive, and integrate on-campus buildings, making it a pretty radical version of a typical sculpture garden. What’s particularly incredible about the exhibit is that the artists have a great deal of freedom: the entire campus – any part of it – may be considered a potential art site.

map-700The Stuart Collection has blossomed into one of the most innovative, unique, and long lasting art productions in La Jolla; there are now 18 pieces in the exhibit, so try and set aside at least 2-3 hours to see everything if you’re walking. Driving and walking the course together takes a little less than 2 hours.

Start off by heading over to the Visitor Center at 9500 Gilman Drive – they’ll hand out a map of the suggested route around campus. You can also download an app from iTunes that provides audio explanations for most of the art pieces.

A Few Highlights of the Collection…


stuart art collection

The “trees” project, affectionately known as the “Enchanted Forest” by students and locals, is an outdoor piece created by Terry Allen. For the project, he rescued three eucalyptus trees from a grove that was cut down to make way for new campus buildings. Two of these, now preserved and encased in skins of lead, stand within a eucalyptus grove between the Geisel Library and the Faculty Club. Although they represent the loss of that forest, these trees offer their own little message: one plays a recorded list of songs and the other a brisk sequence of poems and stories created and arranged specifically for Allen’s project.

Fallen Star

stuart collection

The newest and 18th permanent piece of the Collection, erected in 2012, is De Ho Suh’s “Fallen Star.” Suh constructed a small home that appears to have been picked up by some mysterious force and landed – or crashed – onto the seventh floor of Jacobs Hall at UCSD’s School of Engineering. The roof garden next to it is actually part of the design, and as a whole the area creates a great space for panoramic views. As an immigrant to the States, Suh says he wanted to capture that feeling of displacement and question the concept of what it means to be ‘home.’ More than just an art exhibit, this is truly a masterpiece of artistic construction and use of space: the building precariously straddles the edges of Jacobs Hall and is a shocking image amidst all the concrete.

Snake Path


Constructed in 1992, Alexis Smith’s “snake path” is a winding 560-foot-long, 10-foot-wide footpath in the form of a serpent. Its individual scales are hexagonal pieces of colored slate, and its inlaid head is the main approach to the Geisel Library. This piece isn’t without a little book magic! Along the way, the snake’s body circles around a small “Garden of Eden” with several fruit trees. The path then passes a large granite book carved with a quote from Milton’s famous Paradise Lost.

“Vices and Virtues”

nauman-01Bruce Nauman explores the idea of moral opposites and virtue in a piece that circles the top of the Charles Lee Powell Structural Systems Lab. Seven vices alternate with seven virtues in bright, superimposed blinking neon letters. It’s best to see these at night, but do check them out in the daytime as well.

These are just highlights of a few pieces from the collection, so be sure and stop by UCSD to have a look at all of them. Tours are self-guided, and you can go at any time of the day to browse. Visit Stuart Collection at UCSD for more information.

[all images courtesy of]

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