A Sign for Art

A major new piece of art has been unveiled in the Beech Grove Plaza as part of a major campus refurbishment project.

Penelope Curtis, Keith Wilson, and Stella Butler by Sign for Art


Tate Britain Director Penelope Curtis revealed the monumental new work – Sign for Art, by Yorkshire-based artist Keith Wilson – in the newly-opened Beech Grove Plaza, close to the heart of the campus. The redevelopment of the area, which has included significant refurbishment of the nearby Social Sciences Building, provides staff, students and visitors with a bright, open gateway on to campus.

The 5.1 metre (16ft 8ins) sculpture is made of Keith Wilson’s signature black polyurethane elastomer, which gives its surface a dramatic, rippled effect.

Professor Wilson said: “Immediately after leaving the Slade in the late 1980s, I worked for a year with deaf-blind adults as an art instructor. Drawing two spaced fingertips in a wave motion across the forehead of the student – a tactile ‘brainwave’ sign – announced the arrival of the artist, the subject of art, and the imminent activity of making art.

“This modification of the British Sign Language sign, presumably derived from the making of a brushstroke, struck home, and stayed with me.  Sign for Art is just that. In the face of the proverbial ‘What does it mean?’ this sculpture, at the very least, has an answer.”

As well as Sign for Art and new seating and lighting, the plaza also incorporates planting aimed at attracting a more diverse range of wildlife to the area.  In line with the University Biodiversity Action Plan, this includes indigenous species such as small-leaved lime trees, a native “green wall” and a variety of herbs and grasses that will encourage pollinating insects and birds to the area.

Dennis Hopper, the University’s Director of Facilities Management, has taken a keen interest in public art on Leeds’ campus. He said: “The proximity of the artwork and plaza to the refurbished Social Sciences building means this area of campus is now much more welcoming and accessible, providing a space where people can meet, relax or simply pass through and enjoy.”

The University is currently finalising a new Public Art Strategy, an ambitious programme focusing on public art that spans a wide range of the University’s activities, including research, student experience, communications, fundraising, audience development and building partnerships locally, nationally and internationally.

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