An older piece of art finds its new home at UW Tacoma

The Mattress Factory welcomes a new permanent art piece in its southern lobby. The piece, Yantra, was created by local artist Gerard “Gerry” Tsutakawa and donated to UW Tacoma by Dan and Pat Nelson. Yantra was unveiled to the UWT community during a ceremony on Jan. 7, hosted by the Office of Advancement. During the ceremony, Chancellor Mark Pagano explained that the sculpture will serve as the focal point for plans to turn the south lobby of the MAT into a study space for students.

“Facilities [Services] is going to be working with Mentha [Hynes-Wilson] and her team to put furniture around this space over the next quarter or so, so that students can have a place to sit where they can enjoy the serenity and the quiet here,” Pagano said. “And maybe even do some studying here.”

According to the artist, the meaning behind Yantra comes from Sanskrit meaning good luck or good fortune.

The Nelson family, represented by their daughter Lori Ann at the ceremony, are known for their philanthropy and patronage for the arts and higher education in the South Sound area. They wanted to move the sculpture, which Tsutakawa originally created in 2001 for them, from their private space to the public eye. 

“It is a pretty good size sculpture, but on a larger campus outdoors it kind of gets lost and it doesn’t hold itself in a very, very open space,” said Tsutakawa. “So, we were walking through here and I thought ‘wow, this might be a great place’ … after about 15 minutes of hemming and hawing I thought ‘wow, maybe this will work’ … I wanted a place that was intimate, but you could still get around it.”

Pagano, Tsutakawa, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Mentha Hynes-Wilson, UWT Senior Lecturer and member of UWT’s campus art committee Tyler Budge and UWT student Paola Chua all helped pull the cover off of the piece to officially reveal it to the community.

“The power of formal sculptures is that the audience finds their own meaning,” said Budge. “I’m excited to bring my students here.”

Tsutakawa is the son of George Tsutakawa, who worked as a professor at the UW art school for over 30 years and was known for his fountain designs. The younger Tsutakawa got his start apprenticing in his father’s workshop. In 1979, he created his first piece of public art. Tsutakawa would then go on to create numerous other works of art, including MITT in 1999 for the newly constructed Safeco Field in Seattle. 

In 2014, Tsutakawa created Maru, which can be found at the northern end of the Prairie Line Trail on campus. The piece was made in honor of the Japanese Language School which was demolished in 2004.

For Tsutakawa, having Yantra find a new home here at UWT means that it will not be sitting in his workshop where he thought it would end up after the Nelsons discussed removing it from their property. 

“It’s been outdoors for 19 years,” Tsutakwa said. “So, you get the weather, the birds —  you get a lot of those things. It’s good that [it] is in [a] protected space now. It’ll do well inside.”

Tsutakawa unveils a new sculpture on the ground floor of the Mattress Factory while students, faculty, and people from the public watch and listen to the statues purpose for the space and how it will serve the campus.