Nath Sculpture Garden at Art Museum of WVU
The Nath Sculpture Garden is a 2.5 acre garden in front the Art Museum of WVU. It features a labyrinth-like path, works of art, and a variety of plants. The sculpture garden was developed and funded by the late Dr. Joginder Nath, professor emeritus and former chair of the genetics and developmental biology program at WVU. All rocks and plants incorporated in this garden were hand selected by Nath and the WVU School of Design and Community Development, and a number of programs at WVU contributed their time and talents to realizing this project. The garden features sculptures by artists from the United States, China, and Zimbabwe. The Nath Sculpture Garden opened in 2016, shortly after the opening of the Art Museum of WVU, and is open year-round.
Backstory and Context
The Nath Sculpture Garden was fully funded and directed by Dr. Joginder Nath. While his love of the arts made the sculpture garden a reality, it was Nath’s scientific achievements that brought him to Morgantown. Born and raised in India, Nath received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Panjab University and his doctorate in genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Nath was one of three professors hired by WVU in the 1960s to start a genetics and developmental biology program. He spent more than 40 years at WVU, winning national awards for his research and teaching and investing in his student and the university community. His philanthropy supported lecture series, the Student Food Pantry, and restoration of the Metropolitan Theatre, efforts that led to his induction in the highly regarded Order of Vandalia. Nath’s wife, Charlotte, is a retired family medicine specialist in the WVU School of Medicine. Former WVU landscape architecture professor Ashley Kyber described the Naths as “lights of the community.”
Shortly before his retirement in 2009, Nath supported the development of the Art Museum of WVU by donating funds to create a sculpture garden and courtyard in the front lawn. The Naths frequently attended exhibits and performances at the Creative Arts Center and enjoyed visiting museums while traveling. The new art museum, located in the former Erickson Alumni Center building designed by architect Michael Graves, would be a premier center for the arts in West Virginia. Designing a sculpture garden would expand the museum’s ability to share works of art with the public and make use of the greenspace between the museum and the well-traversed Patteson Drive.
The Nath Sculpture Garden opened in 2016, providing the WVU community with a unique outdoor space to enjoy. WVU students and professors in design, landscape architecture, and related programs were instrumental in developing the sculpture garden. In an interview with WVU Today, Nath described his passion for this project, “The sculpture garden emphasizes nature and art in a space people will find appealing and attractive—a place they will want to spend time. It extends the museum setting to the outdoors for art to be appreciated and enjoyed by many and for students and faculty to learn and grow.”
The design of the Nath Sculpture Garden was inspired by Nath’s role in the community and his personality. The garden features a path, an open field, and various symbolic elements, such as the pyramidal lanterns. The lanterns symbolize Nath’s relationship with his wife. A lover of visual stories of pace, Nath hand selected each rock incorporated into the project, one of them he called “The Fishtail,” which is located by the lantern dedicated to his life.
The sculpture garden acts as an extension to the geometric forms of the Art Museum, designed by modernist architect Michael Graves. The Art Museum’s angular shapes contrast the softness of the sculpture garden. At the same time, the different designs of the sculpture garden and Art Museum’s architecture complement one another. The works of art in the garden were selected from around the world. According to Art Museum Director, Joyce Ice, “We want our students, faculty, staff and visitors to experience art from the U.S. and around the globe while enjoying the beauty and serenity of this outdoor space.”
Works include Odell Prather's Steel Sonata, Wayne Trapp’s The Spirit of Growth 2015, He Zhenhai’s Bridge, Laxon Karisi’s Human Suffering, Shy Woman, and Spirit Bird, Bernard Matemara’s Protecting her Eggs, and Brighton Sango’s Shy.
Joginder Nath passed away in December 2016, his sculpture garden a timeless legacy of his dedication to the WVU community.
“Community invited to Sept. 28 opening of new sculpture garden on WVU campus.” WVU Today. September 20, 2016. Accessed July 2018. http://wvutoday-archive.wvu.edu/n/2016/09/20/community-invited-to-sept-28-opening-of-new-sculpture-garden-on-wvu-campus.html
“Faculty gift to benefit new WVU art museum sculpture garden.” WVU Today. October 22, 2008. Accessed July 2018. http://wvutoday-archive.wvu.edu/n/2008/10/22/7235.html
Kyber, Ashley. Personal Interview. 1 Mar. 2018.
“WVU professor emeritus, loyal supporter passes away.” WVU Today. December 14, 2016. Accessed July 2018. https://wvutoday.wvu.edu/stories/2016/12/14/wvu-professor-emeritus-loyal-supporter-passes-away