Large animal sculptures are part of the campus art celebrating the UNC Galapagos Center

Blue-footed boobies, Galapagos tortoises, and marine iguanas are now all on the UNC campus — as new art installations.

Last spring, a series of large sculptures were installed to mark the 10th anniversary of UNC’s Center for Galapagos Studies.

The Center for Galapagos Studies operates the Galapagos Science Center (GSC), a joint effort between UNC and Universidad San Francisco de Quito. The GSC is based on the island of San Cristobal, off the coast of Ecuador, and houses several laboratories.

The purpose of the anniversary project is to honor the wildlife and biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands.

“Not everyone has the opportunity to travel to Galapagos, so we wanted to try and bring that back here to raise awareness and showcase the beauty of Galapagos on campus,” said Kelly Weaver, Director of External Affairs and communications from the Center. for the Galapagos studies, said.

Weaver said the purpose of the sculptures is to raise awareness of the research center and the educational and outreach opportunities it provides. The sculptures are made from recycled and sustainable materials that celebrate the geography of Galapagos.

“Using these recycled materials to emphasize the importance of being mindful of what we use and that the Earth is worth protecting,” Weaver said.

The sculptures – four in total – have been placed in various locations on the UNC campus.

The “Blue-Footed Booby”, by local artist David Hinkle, is in the Coker Arboretum near Spencer Residence Hall.

The sculpture was made with recycled wood and glass. The piece features a large pedestal created with wood and cement and glass blocks.

Hinkle said he started the piece in response to UNC’s Arts Everywhere public call for art.

He said he incorporated pieces of Chapel Hill artist Michael Brown’s old “Sea Turtle” mural into his sculpture – notably the light blue pieces that formed part of the base. “Sea Turtle” had been in Chapel Hill for over 20 years and was dismantled in July 2022.

Hinkle was in the area shortly after the mural was deconstructed and noticed that some material remained.

“It was nice to be able to reuse a pretty iconic piece of Chapel Hill history,” he said.

Hinkle said part of his rationale behind selecting the blue-footed booby as his subject was his colors.

“One of the reasons was mainly that their feet are pretty much identical to Carolina Blue’s, which is pretty neat,” he said.

The Galapagos tortoise – titled ‘El Gran Gigante’ – was created by Nico Amortegui and sits in front of Campus Y. It was made from a combination of materials including wire, tiles and bottles in plastic.

The area receives heavy foot traffic and many students enjoy seeing the turtle while traveling during the school day.

UNC official Zack Johnson said he sees the Galapagos tortoise as the spiritual successor to the spider sculpture that once stood in front of Phillips Hall.

For some, these sculptures even provide time for reflection on their campus.

“Not every campus has a cool spider, so maybe we can be a campus that has cool turtles,” Johnson said.

Despite its popularity on campus, Weaver said the turtle was definitely moved this week to JimGin Farm in Pittsboro, which hosts weekly carving shows and live music.

The “Marine Iguana”, created by Nyssa Collins and Carson Whitmore, is still under development but can be seen in front of the Morehead Planetarium. The artists used recycled plastic and discarded building materials to construct the piece.

The “Flightless Cormorant”, by artist Paul Estrada, is under construction and the location of its installation will be announced at a later date.

An additional piece, also of a marine iguana, was created by Isaac Delgado and will be located outside the GSC in Ecuador.

Students interested in learning more can visit the Sustainability Social at the Student Union on Wednesday, August 31.


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