Art and Architecture of UConn Storrs, Part 2: Natalie Granados, Clara Nguyen, Tim Prentice and the School of Business

The Benton museum holds another Art in Small Bites walk with docent to discuss developments in architecture and insight to public art across campus. (Avery Bikerman/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut has a big Storrs campus, and students are constantly dashing from one end of it to the other to get to class. Though students see so much of the campus, they rarely take the time to truly appreciate some of the art and architecture that they’re always passing.

Luckily, the Benton Museum’s Art in Small Bites talk this week focused on just that, giving a small group of students and other UConn community members a chance to learn more about of UConn Storrs’ architecture and artwork. Docent Judy McChesney led the group in viewing the architecture of the School of Business as well as the art of Natalie Granados and Clara Nguyen that is on display on the plaza level of Babbidge Library.

Whereas last week’s lecture focused mainly on the architecture of the Benton Museum, much of this week’s discussion centered on the art on view in the library. Though students may not realize it, there is art all over the library, including right when you open the door. McChesney talked about the mobile by Tim Prentice that hangs above the stairs to go up into the building. Made from stainless steel and lexan (a man-made material) panels, the mobile moves with the air that flows in and out when the library doors open. McChesney added that in the 1970s the Connecticut legislature made a law so that one percent of state buildings’ budgets would go towards public art, and that this is why students are able to see so much artwork in buildings and on the grounds of the Storrs campus.

McChesney then spoke about both the colored pencil drawings of Natalie Granados and the paintings of Clara Nguyen.

“You’ll see some very finely done work about New Orleans, Detroit, Massachusetts, the Maine coast—places she’s obviously visited,” McChesney said of Granados’ detailed sketches and drawings.

Granados depicts many famous landmarks in her whimsical works. Her drawing of London includes the Houses of Parliament and Shakespeare’s Globe, for example, while her lettering of the word “Connecticut” showcases Gillette Castle and Gampel Pavilion. In her “day job,” Granados is actually a conservator in Babbidge Library.

Across the way from Granados’ work are displayed the paintings of Clara Nguyen, an archivist in the Dodd Center. In contrast to Granados’ work, Nguyen’s is more abstract. McChesney noted that Nguyen is influenced by poetry and music and seeks to depict this in her art. Nguyen uses the printmaking technique chine-collé, in which paper of a different color or texture is bonded to a sturdier paper using a mixture of methyl cellulose powder and water.

“She talks about using illumination, and she uses a lot of gold and silver leaf in her work, and that harks back to fifth century, when monks were the only ones who could really write, and they were the ones who illustrated manuscripts [and] Bibles,” McChesney said.

After viewing the artwork, the group left the library and crossed Hillside Road to get a better view of the School of Business. McChesney asked attendees to point out which elements of the School’s architecture matched similar features of the Benton’s. Several group members pointed out that the School of Business has a series of three arches and limestone slits which creates the sense of soaring upward, typical in collegiate gothic architecture. In contrast to the Benton’s, however, the School of Business’s arches are squared off at the top for a more modern version of collegiate gothic.

The tour concluded at the School of Business, but McChesney once again provided an informative and engaging tour that excited attendees to learn more about art on campus.


Stephanie Santillo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.santillo@uconn.edu.