Architectural and Art Donations Tell Stories of Campus

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"The Last Supper" mosaic (Photo by Elaina Goodman)

Since BJU moved to Greenville in 1947, art and architectural donations have established the campus’s aesthetic. From tapestries to murals to Bibles, these pieces tell the stories of University friends and campus history.

Mosaic Panels on Science Building

Funds for mosaic panels were a gift from the Class of 1960 and have been on the front of the Howell Memorial Science Building since it was completed in the fall of that year.

The mosaic itself was created by university faculty. Emery Bopp—at the time chair of the Division of Art—designed the mosaics and built them with art faculty members Darell Koons and Carl Blair. The main panel illustrates some of the courses taught in the building: chemistry, biology, astronomy and physics. A quote from Psalm 19:2 reads, “Day unto day uttereth speech… night unto night showeth knowledge.” Eight smaller abstract mosaics, each one unique and cast in the ceramics lab, decorate the sides of the building.

Mezzanine of FMA

Today a cornerstone of campus, Founder’s Memorial Amphitorium wasn’t completed until November 1973. For the first time in several years, all the University community could gather in the same building. Though the building is used daily, parts of it are only admired occasionally. The second-floor mezzanine, decorated with over 30 donated items, is one of those little-noticed gems.

One of the first items to hang in the mezzanine was a François-Frédéric Grobon still life donated by Dr. Bob Jones Jr. in 1973. Grobon—a native of Lyon, France—had pieces regularly exhibited in the Paris Salon during the 1800s. His art ranged from religious and historical pieces to lithographs and still lifes. The painting in the mezzanine was originally part of a French collection.

In 1973, BJU graduate and artist Josephine Brasells donated a portrait of Dr. Bob Jones III as Jon Hus. The scene portrayed is from a play, Prologue, written by Jones Jr. Jones III played the lead role when the Classic Players first performed Prologue on campus in 1968 and again in 1974 and 1996. The play tells the story of the Czech reformer and theologian Jon Hus and spotlights how Hus’ efforts paved the way for 16th-century reformers such as Martin Luther.

In addition to many paintings, two tapestries, each portraying six apostles, have always hung in the mezzanine. These were a gift from French & Co.’s former president Spencer Samuels. The tapestries challenge the viewers to identify the attributes the artist chose to represent in each apostle. By 1971, when the tapestries were donated, Samuels had sold his company but kept a large collection of French works. Many pieces of the Museum & Gallery Collection were previously owned by this dealer.

See Also: Museum & Gallery Loans Largest Sacred Art Exhibit

Standing between the two tapestries is a wooden confessional that has been part of M&G’s Collection since 1970. Jones Jr. planned to repurpose the piece as a beautiful disguise for FMA’s sound and projection booth. The confessional was a gift from art collector and philanthropist Paul Doll, a friend of Jones Jr. and benefactor of the Museum & Gallery.

A bridal portrait of Diana Manners-Sutton, daughter of a British lord, is also part of M&G’s Collection and on display in the FMA mezzanine. Angelica Kauffman, a Swiss painter and the creator of this piece, was one of the few female Old Masters. She traveled around Europe with her father, who was also a painter, and gained popularity as a portraitist. Kauffman was also one of the 40 founding members of London’s Royal Academy of Arts.

An 18th-century portrait of hymn writer and preacher Sir Isaac Watts hangs on one of the mezzanine walls. This gift from Mrs. Robert Gilman was recently added to the amphitorium in 2017 but previously decorated the former Administration Building and has been in the Collection since 1982.

Jerusalem Chamber Replica

When BJU administration made plans for a Mack Library expansion in 1979, they also planned for a display of the University’s rare Bible collection. Donations from Dixie Baptist Church in Clarkston, Michigan, funded the creation of the Jerusalem Chamber, an almost exact replica of the Jerusalem Room in Westminster Abbey.

The replica was originally designed to resemble what the room would have looked like during the translation of the King James Bible in 1611. The number of changes the Westminster room has undergone and the lack of records of the original structure forced the University to guess and simply build the room in the Tudor style. Still, the tapestry, the antique carved chairs, the iron fire dogs on the hearth and the window screens give the room a 17th-century appearance.

Since its dedication in 1980, the Jerusalem Chamber narrates the story of Bible translation through the display of rare Bibles. The exhibit includes several donations, such as a 1776 Saur Bible and a facsimile of the 1611 King James version. An original first printing of the 1611 King James Version donated by Claude Falligant is also on display.

Last Supper Mosaic on Fine Arts Center

The Gustafson Fine Arts Center is a relatively recent addition to the campus. The project began in the fall of 1997 and was completed in the spring of 2000. Since then, a 24-foot-long recreation of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper has decorated the side wall of the music wing. The mosaic—created by four German artists of the August Wagner Company in Berlin from 1929 to 1930—took 27,000 hours to assemble and is made of ten 500-pound panels. The mosaic, once hidden from Nazis in a basement in Europe, was donated to the University by the Kenneth A. Curtis family. Curtis and his father designed Masterpiece Gardens, a Christian retreat center in Lake Wales, Florida, where the mosaic previously resided.

Former art faculty Karen Brinson worked 138 hours to restore and prepare the mosaic for installation. The 300,000 individual tiles make up the iconic da Vinci fresco. Every spring, M&G invites visitors to take a tour of BJU’s campus and admire the mosaic before seeing it recreated in Living Gallery.

See Also: Living Gallery: Art that Breathes

Relief on Sargent Art Building

During the construction of the Fine Arts Center, the architect of the art wing requested a brick sculpture. Former chair of the Division of Art Dave Appleman accepted the challenge. He first designed two scale models for the relief, which depicted the days of creation. To Appleman, the subject seemed logical. “It goes along with what we do as artists—create,” he said in a BJU Review article.

Appleman worked with a Boral brick plant in Georgia that would supply the bricks, fire them when carved, and return them when finished. He carved 1,224 wet clay bricks with ceramic tools to recreate the models and assembled them into a wall on an easel. The carving alone took three weeks of 12-hour workdays. Once Appleman finished, the bricks were disassembled one by one and assigned a number. The pieces were fired in the Georgia plant, returned to campus and assembled into the two relief panels that decorate the entry of the Sargent Art building.

History of Evangelism Mural

Dedicated in 2000, the same year as the Gustafson Fine Arts Center, the Bob Jones Jr. Memorial Seminary & Evangelism Center has a rotunda designed specifically to narrate the history of evangelism. The first floor displays memorabilia and videos of men who dedicated their lives to preparing others for ministry. Former faculty members Emery Bopp and Kenn Brinson sculpted busts of Dr. Bob Jones Jr., Dr. Richard Rupp, Dr. Monroe Parker and Dr. Gilbert Stenholm.

The second floor of the rotunda boasts 11 stained glass windows and a 20-foot long mural. Dr. Bob Jones III commissioned Jim Brooks—artist, former illustration teacher and BJU Review art director—to create a piece that told the history of evangelism. Even though this was the largest work he’d ever attempted, Brooks accepted the challenge. Dr. Mark Sidwell of the history faculty and former seminary professor Dr. David Beale helped Brooks research. The team chose 17 evangelists—including Jonathan Edwards and Dr. Bob Jones—and three hymn-writers. The portraits are painted in front of three different scenes representing the evangelists’ time periods.

Similar details, big and small, old and new, are spread across campus. These stories are part of BJU’s history. As you walk around campus take a moment and appreciate these features and their significance.

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Abril Brito Mones is a content marketing intern for BJUtoday.