Steel Sculpture Takes Up Residence Behind SHU Dorms

News Story: August 1, 2010
"Temple Elevator"

The grassy expanse behind Christian Witness Commons, Sacred Heart University’s residence hall complex on Park Avenue in Bridgeport, has a new landmark. “Temple Elevator,” a soaring galvanized steel sculpture, was installed Friday, July 23.

It was crafted by Father Austin I. Collins, C.S.C., a professor of art at the University of Notre Dame, at his studios there. The 24’4” sculpture was delivered here on a flatbed truck by the artist, who made the gift in memory of Mrs. Joan Smurlo, a long-time friend of Sacred Heart University. Mrs. Smurlo was the wife of Frank Smurlo of Old Greenwich, an alumnus of Notre Dame and himself an accomplished artist.

Weighing over 3,000 pounds, the piece sits on a concrete platform. It came here after a year-long loan to Purdue University and is part of a series of nearly 30 related sculptures. Others in the set are now located at colleges in Indiana, Michigan and Illinois, and in such prominent public spaces as the Navy Pier Walk in Chicago. Father Collins’ work is held in high regard across the country, and his trip to Connecticut included the delivery of two other outdoor pieces for a private collector in Fairfield County.

“Temple Elevator” joins Sacred Heart University’s collection of over 300 works that include seven site-specific outdoor works created for spaces including residence halls and the William H. Pitt Health and Recreation Center

Artist Father Austin Collins, left, oversees the installation.

“The Smurlos have been close friends of mine for many years. I honor Joan by giving one of my works to Sacred Heart University, an institution that the Smurlos care so much for,” said its creator. The Temple Series, to which this new piece belongs, has been in process for the past 10 years. It sprang from the artist’s experiences in Haiti whose native art expressed the Haitians’ deep cultural and political struggles. This invitation to reflection, he felt, left them prepared to step back into the world as agents of positive change.