USAO students continue the work of artist Jesús Moroles 

click to enlarge Artist-in-residence at USAO, Jesus Moroles, with granite blocks being used in the construction of Coming Together Park on the campus in Chickasha.  mh
  • Artist-in-residence at USAO, Jesus Moroles, with granite blocks being used in the construction of Coming Together Park on the campus in Chickasha. mh

On June 15, renowned sculptor Jesús Moroles died in a car wreck near Georgetown, Texas. Moroles was the first artist-in-residence at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO) in Chickasha, and he was teaching summer classes there while working with students and faculty on Coming Together Park.

The one-acre park, when finished, was to be Moroles’ largest granite installation, a place for serenity, study and conversation for the campus and the community. The students and two faculty members will continue with the project with the help of Moroles’ studio in Rockport, Texas.

“Jesús had about 99 percent of the design work done,” said Kelly Arnold, USAO director of communications. “He would tweak it occasionally as his vision expanded and changed, but we have the overall design he intended.”

Art students grind blocks of granite, creating elements for the Coming Together Park sculpture being installed on the USAO campus.5-20-15.  mh
  • Art students grind blocks of granite, creating elements for the Coming Together Park sculpture being installed on the USAO campus.5-20-15. mh

In May, Moroles led a five-week independent study project for USAO students and worked and spoke extensively with faculty members Layne Thrift and Jordan Vinyard. Because of his close work with students and faculty, the school is both heartbroken and committed to finish Moroles’ vision, Arnold said.

“He was doing a summer internship with nine students,” she said, “so those students, as well as others, will work with Professor Thrift and Professor Vinyard to finish the park.”

The studio in Rockport is providing advice and direction as needed.

“We have their full support in moving forward with Coming Together Park,” Arnold said.

The park will be located on the campus’ oval and will be open to the public. Moroles designed it with tables, benches, common areas and grassy knolls for quiet reflection or study. One of the components of the park that will be impossible to complete will be the smaller, individual granite sculptures that Moroles planned to make.

“We have only one unfinished piece,” Arnold said. “We are trying to decide what to do with it at this point.”

Right now, the plan is to auction the unfinished piece at an upcoming gala in tribute to Moroles. The event is scheduled for Sept. 10 at The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City, but the details have not been finalized.

Art student Brittany Standard marks granite pieces for cutting as part of the Coming Together Park sculpture being installed on the USAO campus.  mh
  • Art student Brittany Standard marks granite pieces for cutting as part of the Coming Together Park sculpture being installed on the USAO campus. mh

“We are planning a benefit gala,” Arnold said, “but it will mainly be a tribute to Jesús. There will be auction items, the proceeds of which will go to the park and student scholarships. We are thinking about auctioning the unfinished piece in hopes that it will be gifted to the university and those proceeds, too, would go to the park and students.”

The individual pieces were supposed to be on permanent display in the park, and like all the work Moroles did, they were to be made from granite. In an interview with Oklahoma Gazette in June, Moroles said he worked with granite because he had a connection with it and because “Granite was the most challenging thing [he] ever tried.”

The original completion date for the park was sometime in August. Moroles was never more specific than that. Arnold said the target date is still in August, but the school is flexible with the deadline.

“We may not hit the date, but it’s still a goal we are shooting for,” she said.

Freddy Baeza, a USAO student who worked with Moroles during the May independent study program, summed up what many of his fellow students learned from Moroles: “He always told us there are no excuses why we shouldn’t be able to keep going, no matter the obstacle.”

The words and the lesson are poignant, and the students intend to finish the work.

Print headline: Monumental legacy, Jesús Moroles is remembered as his students finish his work on Coming Together Park.

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Greg Horton

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