It is perhaps appropriate that a statue of the quintessential Renaissance Man has been donated to a University known for its multifaceted approach to learning.
And while the wheels were set in motion to bring a 550-lb. bust of Leonardo Da Vinci to UW-Green Bay well before its new 360° of Learning brand had an official name, it is perhaps equally appropriate that statue and brand are arriving on campus during the same academic year.
After all, Da Vinci excelled across disciplines — architecture, the arts, mathematics, music — just to name a few. UW-Green Bay students and faculty are known for doing the same, embracing an interdisciplinary style of learning that encourages broader perspectives and challenging new ideas. Even the faculty members who helped bring Da Vinci here hail from different academic backgrounds — yet they celebrated together when unpacking the carefully shipped bust that arrived late last week.
“It was really something,” said Associate Music Prof. Sarah Meredith Livingston, describing seeing the statute for the first time. “I got tears in my eyes when I saw it — we’ve been planning on it for a year and a half and it had arrived in one piece. It’s a very beautiful piece.”
The statute was donated by the Romualdo Del Bianco-Life Beyond Tourism Foundation, founded by Dr. Paolo del Bianco, a Florence, Italy businessman and philanthropist who received an honorary doctorate from UW-Green Bay in 2007. The foundation is named for del Bianco’s father, and was developed to foster community and facilitate intellectual exchange between Eastern and Western Europe after the end of the Cold War.
Meredith Livingston and Urban and Regional Studies Prof. Ray Hutchison have ties to the region and foundation dating back for about a decade, having coordinated speaking engagements, semesters abroad, conference participation and more for themselves, their colleagues and their students. UW-Green Bay was the first U.S. university to connect with the del Bianco Foundation’s programs, Hutchison said, and is the only stateside institution receiving a Da Vinci bust — one of just five to be donated worldwide — from the foundation.
“It’s exciting to see it right there in front of you,” Hutchison said. “It’s clear they think of us sort of specially, as we were the first of the U.S. universities to be involved with them. … You don’t know where the opportunities for these kinds of things are going to come from.”
There’s plenty of meaning in the bust’s origins, not just in terms of donation but also in terms of the source of its material. The artist, sculptor and art teacher Sirio de Ranieri, used Carrara marble, well known for its pure white color — and more so because it’s the same marble used by the artist Michelangelo in his day. The statue is nearly three feet high and about two feet wide.
The bust’s final campus destination has not yet been determined, and a pedestal must be constructed before it is displayed. Longtime University supporter and 2008 Chancellor’s Award winner Len Seidl, well known for his role in promoting and securing the site that would become UW-Green Bay, has donated funds for the pedestal.
The Da Vinci statue will be officially unveiled and dedicated in August, in conjunction with UW-Green Bay’s annual fall convocation. Del Bianco himself is expected to attend.
When the statue is finally in place, the project can then be said to have come “full circle.” A bust of the artist who conceived Vitruvian Man, the iconic sketch of a man in a square, inside a circle, will occupy a place of honor at the University known for “360° of Learning.”
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