To Make Way for a Fitness Center, Sculpture Collections Will Move from Gimbel Gym
Among the almost-hidden treasures of Penn is a pair of side-by-side sculpture galleries in the Gimbel Gymnasium, displaying the work of the world-famous physician/sculptor R. Tait McKenzie and one of his best-known apprentices, Joseph Brown, who went on to become a major figure in sports sculpture in his own right. The work can be seen in their Gimbel locations for only a little longer, however, as the galleries are being dismantled on or about June 8 so that construction can start on a Fitness Center for faculty, staff and students.
The sculpture will go into storage for now, but will be displayed in Sansom Common when the Bookstore, Inn at Penn, and Faculty Club open, according to a spokesperson from the Office of the Executive Vice President.
The new Fitness Center, is scheduled to open in the fall, occupying two floors of Gimbel Gym and providing state-of-the-art equipment to meet needs that have been identified by a comprehensive study. As approved by the Trustees on May 1, the Center will cost approximately $1.1 millioin and will be paid for from gifts pledged and received. "This initiative meets the need for a centrally located exercise facility to enrich the undergraduate experience, encourage wellness as a lifelong practice and to promote interaction among faculty, students and staff," reads the Trustees resolution in part. The scope of work includes the purchase and installation of athletic equipment, reconfiguration of selected areas, new finishes, lighting and improvements to the mechanical and electrical systems.
The Sculptors and the Galleries
R. Tait McKenzie's work--some 90 pieces of indoor and outdoor sculpture, medallions, and bas reliefs comprising the J. William White Collection--is in the Lloyd Peniston Jones Gallery, named for an 1907 engineering alumnus who had been one of Penn's great track champions-and whose performance at the 1908 Olympics in London reportedly inspired some of the McKenzie's work. Mr. Jones (1884-1971) became president and member of the board of the Federal-Mogul Corporation and retired to Bermuda in 1928. On his death his family created the gallery as his memorial.
A physician who made a lifelong study of the human body under stress, the Canadian-born Dr. McKenzie (1867-1938) was also one of the pioneers in sports medicine, serving on the Penn faculty from 1904 until 1931 as both Professor of Medicine and Professor of Physical Education. The J. William White Fund, created in honor of a physician colleague, established the J. William White Research Professorship as well as the supporting the purchase of the McKenzie sculptures now in this collection.
Joe Brown (1909-1985) was a South Philadelphian who a professional boxer, was an apprentice and studio assistant to Tait McKenzie for seven years who later joined Princeton University as a boxing instructor, Lecturer in Creative Arts (with the rank of professor) and Sculptor in Residence. In the Penn collection of his work are 49 pieces, which have been housed in a gallery dedicated to another Penn medical professor who had a lifelong athletic interest: Dr. Harry Fields (1911-1987), a champion wrestler from Haverford who took up the sport professionally to pay his way through medical school here, and who became one of Philadelphia's best-known obstetrician / gynecologists during his decades on the medical faculty here.
Almanac, Vol. 44, No. 34, May 19/26, 1998