Although the Southern Management Corporation Campus Center has been a beautiful addition to the University of Maryland founding campus in Baltimore, there was still plenty of room for artistic improvements on the inside. Revolving art exhibitions have brought to life the walls of the second-floor hallway outside of the ballroom. Yet the floor-to-ceiling windows that are the first thing visitors see when reaching the top of the stairwell remained unadorned.
That changed on May 3, 2012, when Bruce Jarrell, MD, FACS, the University's chief academic and research officer, senior vice president, and dean of the Graduate School, unveiled a special art piece that now fills the empty window space with handcrafted ironwork in the shape of a tree. The photo shows University President Jay A. Perman, MD, right, assisting in the unveiling.
Forged by Jarrell, who is an accomplished blacksmith as well as a surgeon, and his mentor, Ukrainian blacksmith Anatoliy Rudik, the piece took 500 hours to create. "We made hundreds of leaves and branches as a well-oiled team, even though we could only communicate with our hands and through our actions, because he does not speak English and I do not speak Russian or Ukrainian," reveals Jarrell.
The finished piece does not represent just any tree. "The iron artwork is an artistic interpretation of the English Elm that once stood next to Davidge Hall," explains Jarrell. "Davidge Hall was built in 1812 and is emblematic of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. As the tree grew, the University also grew to become a great institution. Unfortunately, the University lost the aging English Elm tree 10 years ago, and with it an important symbol."
Now the symbol of the University is back, "growing" in a building just across the street from where the original tree was once planted. "Part of our inspiration in planning this project were three visual ideas," explains Jarrell. "One was that the two windows and the partition between them would appear at a distance as two sides of the tree, with a large tree trunk between them. This would be similar to the Davidge Elm, which had large vines hanging from it. The second idea was that the light streaming through the windows would create many interesting shadows on the walls and floors throughout the day and bring this part of the Campus Center alive. The third idea was that this beautiful tree would emerge to become visible as one walked up the graceful stairway at the other end of the hallway. We will see how these ideas come true, but we feel it's a great way to remember the tree and its significance."