Cowell College dedicates new Coeleen Kiebert Sculpture Patio

Coeleen Kiebert unveils her sculpture "China Rock" (photos by Carolyn Lagattuta)
Professor Emeritus of American Studies and founding UC Santa Cruz faculty member John Dizikes entertains the crowd.
The courtyard outside the Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery at Cowell College was packed Friday evening with friends and admirers of distinguished artist, teacher and UC Santa Cruz alumna Coeleen Kiebert.

The occasion was the dedication of the new Coeleen Kiebert Patio at that very spot, made possible by a passionate contingent of artistic friends.

Nearly 100 people from the community contributed over $100,000 to make it happen. Their goal was to celebrate the importance of the arts in education—and the importance of Coeleen Kiebert in promoting the arts.

For the past four decades, Kiebert’s work has been exhibited in museums, galleries and private collections throughout the world. Locally, her work is on display in downtown Santa Cruz at the Pacific Garden Mall and in the Sculpture Garden of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History.

Kiebert arrived at UC Santa Cruz in the 1970s after completing a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Minnesota in Art Education. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 1980 with a Master of Science degree in Psychology, where she studied the psychology of creativity—all the while continuing to create sculptures in ceramics and bronze.  

Kiebert also taught art and sculpture through UCSC Extension from 1996 to 2009 and has for many years served as a bridge between UC Santa Cruz and the regional arts community.

“We are delighted to show our thanks and love by making permanent our appreciation,” said Mary Alice Copp, one of the volunteers who helped spearhead the fundraising effort. “The naming of the patio after Coeleen is the first time a space at Cowell College has been named after a former student. That is because her contributions to our community have been so transformative and profound.”

“Fundraising was never so easy and rewarding,” she added. “Gifts came not only from Santa Cruz, but also from Berkeley, San Francisco, Sacramento, New Jersey, New York, Florida, New Mexico and Holland!”

In addition to an exhibition of Kiebert’s sculptures on display in the adjacent Smith Gallery, the dedication also included the unveiling of two sculptures that will permanently reside in the Kiebert Sculpture Patio.

The first piece, titled “Eve Embracing the Snake,” was created by artist Nic Yonc and discovered by Kiebert in the Netherlands. The second, titled “China Rock,” was created by Kiebert and inspired by her travels in China and Japan.

Cowell College Provost Faye Crosby praised Kiebert’s teaching expertise and her distinct influence on such a wide variety of students over the years.

“Many of Coeleen’s students from her long years as a master teacher are here today,” Crosby noted. “Of her teaching, Coeleen says that there are two components--the technical and the philosophical. She aims to enable her students to develop a personal understanding of their own creativity even as they gain technical skills.”

Crosby added: “And of her work, Coeleen says, ‘My art is an expression of a mysterious, quiet story that has within it a line of truth deeper than I am able to see in any other way.’”