Hundreds of people gathered on July 28 to celebrate the dedication of the Elizabeth Catlett Residence Hall, the University of Iowa’s newest and largest residence hall, which offers an impressive view of the Iowa River on the east side of campus.
“(Elizabeth Catlett’s) values—the arts, justice for humanity, support for all individuals—that’s what this type of building represents, and it’s so important that we honor her and her family letting us remind ourselves in the perpetuity of the core values she represents,” said UI President J. Bruce Harreld during the ceremony.
Catlett Hall facts and figures
Sept. 10, 2014: Board of Regents approves plans
Spring 2015: Building construction begins
Space: 303,000 square feet
Bricks used: 522,000
Tons of concrete reinforcing: 1,500
Person-hours to construct: 620,000
Green outlets: 2,102
Student rooms: 526
Student beds: 1,049
Living Learning Communities: 6
Study rooms: 10
Fitness centers: 1
Sustainability: Anticipated to be LEED Silver
Harreld; Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers; Assistant Vice President for Student Life and Senior Director of University Housing and Dining Von Stange; and Francisco Mora-Catlett, Elizabeth Catlett’s son, celebrated with UI administrators, staff, and students in Catlett Market Place to honor Catlett and officially open the building bearing her name.
Catlett Hall is the second residence hall built on the UI campus since 1968. It stands 12 stories tall and will house about 1,049 students in traditional residence hall communities with pod-style restrooms. The residence hall also features a number of gathering areas and study rooms for students, as well as the Rocklin Learning Commons, named in honor of Thomas Rocklin, who served as the vice president for student life at the UI for 10 years until his retirement earlier this month.
About Elizabeth Catlett
Elizabeth Catlett is nationally recognized for her artwork and as one of the most important American sculptors and printmakers of the 20th century. Catlett, who attended the UI from 1938 to 1940, was one of the university’s first three MFA graduates and was the first African American woman to receive the degree. Although the UI accepted African American students during a time when many institutions across the country did not, UI housing remained closed to African Americans until 1945.
Catlett chose to attend the UI so she could study with Grant Wood, painter of the famed American Gothic. Her pieces frequently depict women, mothers with children, and working-class African Americans, as well as icons such as Malcolm X, Angela Davis, and Sojourner Truth.
Catlett received the UI Distinguished Alumna Award for Achievement in 1996 and was named a UI Alumni Fellow in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2006. She died in 2012.
About the art
Now housed in Catlett Residence Hall, Totem is one of Catlett’s later sculptures and embodies her best work. According to UI Facilities Management, the piece features sculptures of stacked faces that reflect the influence of African art. She melds the faces into a seamless whole, navigating a line between abstraction and realism, cubism, and biomorphism. Her handling of the marble conveys the beauty that she sees in her subject matter.
Welcoming guests into the building from the T. Anne Cleary Walkway, an untitled mural in glass created by artist Roberto Delgado displays photos of Elizabeth Catlett and other individuals that were transformed into new, creatively enhanced images for the mural.