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GSSWGraduate School of Social Work

Harvest Sculpture Finds New Home at GSSW

April 10, 2015

Onlookers watched in awe as a forklift truck hoisted the four huge sculptures above the lawn just east of Craig Hall, while teams of workers guided each piece to its designated spot on prepared beds of river rock. Once installed, the six individual figures appeared to be walking slowly toward one other to share their bountiful harvest of fruits, vegetables and grains. The sculpture, relocated from its original location in Colorado’s Summit County, is a gift to the University of Denver from Gerri Cohen in honor of her late husband, Al Cohen, longtime member of the Board of Trustees.

Carved from a single enormous block of Indiana limestone in 1983, “Harvest on the Rio Grande” was the first monumental work by Doug Hyde, now a recognized leader among artists of Native American descent. The piece, which was awarded first place in sculpture at the Santa Fe Indian market later that year, is described by the artist as representing the continuity of community and family traditions that bind the 19 ancient Northern Pueblo Indian tribes together. During a visit to DU in 2013, Hyde expressed his desire to have the sculpture placed in a landscape that invites participation, so viewers might feel included within the group of figures. Indeed, despite weighing up to six tons, the figures appear more welcoming than imposing to the students, faculty, staff and community members who pass them each day.

Both Chancellors Emeriti Dan Ritchie and Robert Coombe played key roles in bringing the sculpture to campus. University Art Collections Curator Dan Jacobs, University Architect Mark Rodgers and GSSW Dean James Herbert Williams worked with Hyde to identify where the piece should be located. At Williams’ urging, the group chose the site near Craig Hall because the sculpture’s themes of family, community and respect for Native culture are closely aligned with social work values and figure prominently in GSSW’s curriculum.

“We’re honored to have this sculpture located near our school,” says Williams. “GSSW has a long history of working with Native populations, not only within our scholarship and curriculum, but also through our Butler Institute for Families and our Four Corners MSW Program in Durango, Colorado.”

The sculpture’s dedication ceremony, which took place on May 6, included a speech by Chancellor Rebecca Chopp and a cedar blessing performed by Dr. Tink Tinker (wazhazhe/Osage Nation), Clifford Baldridge Professor of American Indian Cultures and Religious Traditions at the Iliff School of Theology. See photos of the event.