Mandala Sunrise Sculpture

Campus Dedicates Sunrise Sculpture, Sun Bowl Drive Expansion

By on November 5, 2014

Vince Burke remembered his reaction when he first saw Mandala Sunrise, the bold, new piece of public art that was dedicated during a brief Oct. 29 ceremony at The University of Texas at El Paso.

Burke, chair of the Department of Art and associate professor of ceramics, was among approximately 100 guests at the late-morning event at UTEP’s P-8 parking lot to celebrate the completion of the $4.8 million Sun Bowl Drive expansion and enhancement project and the installation of the artwork in the new roundabout at the intersection of Glory Road and Sun Bowl.

Internationally renowned artist Koryn Rolstad told the crowd at an Oct. 29 dedication ceremony at the P-8 parking lot how she was inspired to create “Mandala Sunrise” after a visit to UTEP last spring. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service

“It was a shocking explosion of color and energy,” he said. “It was an electric experience. As you approach it, you can’t take your eyes off it because of how the colors change depending on the time of day. At night, it creates an ethereal glow. It’s gorgeous.”

Seattle-based artist Koryn Rolstad said she was pleased with the feedback she has received in person and through social media regarding the artwork.

She said she got an immediate vibe during her campus tour last spring that inspired her concept. Some of the factors included the campus’ multicultural setting, the Bhutanese architecture and the student-centered atmosphere. She envisioned a multicolored sand mandala whose design is blown away by the wind and thus colors the sky.

“I knew exactly what I was going to do,” she said between conversations with well-wishers and the media at the event. “I think it’s fun and I see the looks of the people who post their pictures (with it) on Instagram. They look happy.”

Rolstad’s concept turned into 36 powder-coated aluminum poles of different lengths set in native rocks within a 32-foot diameter. The poles are topped with colorful translucent, crescent-shaped resin substrate hands that seem to reach up and change color with the shadows of the day. Multicolored light-emitting diode (LED) lights illuminate the structure at night.

UTEP President Diana Natalicio said Rolstad’s sculpture celebrates and symbolizes the seamless blending of cultures on campus, and encouraged the public to view the artwork at different times during the day to experience its various shades of brilliance.

“It’s shimmering glow in the late afternoon light is really quite remarkable and, for me at least, that may be this beautiful sculpture’s best moment,” President Natalicio said.

The artwork is set in the University’s third roundabout, which was created as part of the Sun Bowl Drive expansion that also was celebrated at the event. Officials from the Texas Transportation Commission, including commission chair Ted Houghton, and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) were in attendance to accept the President’s thanks on behalf of the University and surrounding community.

The project widened Sun Bowl Drive, a main artery that connects Interstate 10 with Mesa Street, to create an additional lane in both directions from just south of the Don Haskins Center to just north of the Sun Bowl Parking Garage. The 14-foot-wide outer lanes accommodates bicyclists. The work, which started in September 2013, included sidewalks, safety rails and enhanced lighting. The major work was completed in time to open the new lanes for UTEP’s Spring Commencement.

President Natalicio earned a few chuckles from the audience when she shared that the bike lanes were added “to promote alternative modes of transportation, thereby reducing UTEP’s carbon footprint … and maybe even some waistlines.”

She praised Houghton and TxDOT for their “enthusiastic, creative and abiding support” that paved the way for $46 million in road enhancement projects such as the extension of the Interstate 10 West off-ramp to campus, the roundabout at University Avenue and Sun Bowl Drive, the Sun Bowl Drive pedestrian overpass, and the Spur 1966 project that will connect Paisano Drive with Schuster Avenue on the south side of campus.

The president also lauded TxDOT for its $8 million investment through its Transportation Enhancement Program for UTEP’s transformation plan to create a more pedestrian-friendly campus core that limits vehicle traffic. That commitment enabled the University to secure $10 million from The University of Texas System Permanent University Fund to support the transformation project’s infrastructure enhancements.

“We’re proud of what we did,” said Houghton, a longtime public servant and owner of Houghton Financial Partners. During his brief remarks, he reflected on some of the projects that impact the University and the reasons behind them, especially public safety and growing student population.

The El Paso native also took time to extol the leadership of President Natalicio during the past 26 years and credited her for the continuing successful collaborations between the University and TxDOT.

“Success breeds success and Dr. Natalicio, you are the success here,” he said. “We thank you for your leadership and we’re glad to be part of it.”

The University scheduled the celebration to coincide with the Texas Transportation Commission’s public meeting Oct. 30 in UTEP’s Tomás Rivera Conference Center on the third floor of Union Building East.

President Natalicio used the forum to present Houghton with a limited-edition University Partners keepsake. The keepsake included a matted photo of the iconic Mining Minds sculpture at sunset along with the numerals “1-0-0” that represent the University’s Centennial and the binary code message on the tips of the pickaxe that encourages students to believe in themselves, their dreams and UTEP.

She said the honor was for the great work Houghton and TxDOT have done to remedy the safety and transportation concerns at and around the University that helped lead to the Campus Transformation plan. Eight-five other people, programs, organizations and institutions that have played a significant role in the growth of the University and its students during the past 100 years received the same keepsake at the Sept. 30 University Partners Convocation.

After hearing from local leaders who thanked the commission for their presence and support, each commissioner shared a few words that complimented the community and the University.

Commissioner Fred Underwood made a point of thanking President Natalicio for her hospitality during the previous day’s campus tour. He said she displayed a love and pride for the campus, its students and employees, and he appreciated her efforts to ensure that students had access to higher education.

“Thank you for what you do and what you stand for, for education, for UTEP and for El Paso,” Underwood said.

Published 10/31/14 at

Daniel Perez is a senior writer in UTEP's Office of University Communications.