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New Sculpture Melds Form and Function in Morton Courtyard
A woman sits on a curved green bench with ravens perched atop two beams

Pansy Morton sits on the bench following its installation in the Morton Courtyard on Sept. 15, 2022.

The Hugh Morton Jr. Courtyard, an oasis of serenity and natural beauty that is often used by the Fine Arts Department for performances and receptions, is now home to a new sculpture by world-renowned artist Jim Gallucci. 

The piece — a curved, Ravenscroft-green bench featuring two ravens perched atop soaring metal beams — builds on themes already present in the courtyard’s design while providing visitors with a new and welcoming place to sit, relax and reflect. It was commissioned earlier this year and installed Sept. 15 as the latest addition to Ravenscroft’s Hugh Morton Jr. Art Collection. The sculpture was funded through budget allocations to the Morton Art Collection, gifts and the generosity of the Fine Arts Association.

The courtyard, designed by Morton’s friend Tom Hunter, was the first “living artwork” in the collection. Dedicated in 2010, it features sun-dappled trees and plants bordered by low, sand-colored stone walls that curve along a gravel pathway — built by Smitty Smith as an homage to Morton’s time as a student at UNC-Chapel Hill — and grassy mounds that evoke Grandfather Mountain, a much-beloved North Carolina landmark that was in the Morton family for many years. 

The new bench contains these thematic elements as well: its backrest shows the profile of Grandfather Mountain, representing and furthering what Director of Fine Arts David McChesney calls the “synergy” among the artists whose work is represented there.

“It’s as though Jim read our minds” in designing the bench this way, he said. “The courtyard itself serves as evidence of artistic collaboration — and this latest piece is a great model for our students as they consider their own approach to art and the development of their portfolios.”

Gallucci, whose studio is in Greensboro, is best known for his benches and other forms of public art. He has previously been commissioned by the Fine Arts Department for other sculptures in the courtyard, including a 2013 piece featuring 14 ravens in flight.

The Morton Art Collection was established in 1997 by artist Bob Timberlake in memory of his friend and colleague. Morton’s wife, Pansy, taught Spanish at Ravenscroft, and the couple’s son, Jack ’96, is an alumnus. Pieces for the collection are chosen by a committee of faculty and students, who often visit the galleries and studios of regional artists and learn about their work as part of the selection process.

Read more about the history of the Morton Art Collection and how our visual art teachers use it today to enhance students’ experiences in this Ravenscroft Magazine story and video from Spring 2019. Read about the Morton Courtyard and other beautiful campus spaces created through philanthropy in this Ethos feature from Fall 2019.

A collage of photos showing the installation of the bench in Morton Courtyard

Clockwise from top left: The new bench is lowered from the delivery truck for installation in the Hugh Morton Jr. Courtyard; Ravenscroft Facilities Department members Woody Davis, Steve Parker and Michael Hunt (fourth from left) pose with the installation team; Fine Arts Department members Elisabeth McChesney, Kristen McCarthy, Allison Tierney, Erin Stelling and Amelia Karpowitz visit with Pansy Morton, who is standing next to an earlier art installation by Jim Gallucci.