Unless your classes or offices are in the University of Nebraska’s Peter Kiewit Institute (PKI) you may not know that PKI not only houses UNO’s College of Information Science and Technology and UNL's College of Engineering, but a beautiful, glass-blown work of art, as well.
Walk through PKI’s front doors and it’s hard to miss “Toreador Red,” a larger-than-life red glass piece created by renowned glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. The hanging chandelier measures approximately 12 feet long and 6 feet wide and is composed of dozens of individual glass shapes. Each of the shapes was hand blown by Chihuly in his Seattle studio.
Chihuly was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1941, eventually studying glass blowing at the University of Wisconsin and earning a master’s degree in 1967. After graduating, Chihuly traveled to the northeast and established the Department of Glass at the Rhode Island School of Design where he taught until 1983. During the 1990s, he turned his creativity toward large-scale architectural installations for public spaces and homes. Chihuly’s works can be found in more than 160 museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Louvre in Paris, and only one other place locally: the Joslyn Art Museum.
“Toreador Red” was brought to UNO as part of the state’s “1% Art Program.” The program stems from a state law that requires every time a new building is built using state dollars that 1% of the funds are used on art. The piece is valued at almost $160,000.
Hesham Ali, dean of the College of Information Science and Technology, says the Chihuly sculpture is important to the building because of its visual representation of the PKI mission.
“This is not a piece of art that existed before and was transferred to us. This notion of working across different scientific areas and with community partners was something that was emphasized about PKI early in our interactions with the Chihuly group. We believe these discussions triggered the design of the art piece as a volcanic knowledge eruption.”
Chihuly worked with eight glassblowers to create the massive sculpture. Predominantly orange and red, the combination of clear and opaque elements adds to the depth of color in the piece.
So, if you ever find yourself on Scott Campus on a bright sunny day, swing by PKI and enjoy the natural light from the building skylight reflect the colors of “Toreador Red” onto the floor below.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.