FSU glass artist to light up Gaines Street with unique sculpture

Kenneth von Roenn

Florida State University will light up a central corner of Tallahassee’s Gaines Street area, a dynamic, once-blighted neighborhood experiencing a rapid revitalization just south of campus.

“Declaration” is a steel and glass sculpture designed by FSU Master Craftsman Studio Director Kenneth von Roenn. A 10-member team from the Master Craftsman Studio will build the sculpture, and expects to unveil it Nov. 29, the weekend of the Seminole-University of Florida football game.

The sculpture will stand 20 feet tall in a roundabout at Gaines and Woodward Avenue. It will be composed of a stainless steel frame with stainless steel cables supporting dichroic glass triangular forms.

“These dichroic elements are a stylized form of a spearhead, though the form is not so literal that this is the only interpretation,” von Roenn said.

“I want the piece to enrich the experience of Gaines Street and also to serve as a gateway for FSU,” he said.

The most unique characteristic of the sculpture is its lighting, von Roenn said. Dichroic glass changes colors when viewed or illuminated from different directions, so the sculpture will change in appearance as passerby travel around it. Also, high-powered LED lights will shine a powerful beam into the sky at night.

“This sculpture will illuminate what is rapidly becoming a new cultural and living center for Tallahassee,” City Commissioner Gil Ziffer said. “It will be an icon for Gaines Street, which will ultimately draw even more visitors and residents to the area.”

Massive glass sculptures are von Roenn’s forte. The FSU alumnus, who serves as associate director of the university’s Public Art/Architectural Art Program, designed the world’s largest glass sculpture, a 500,000-pound work of art atop the former Wachovia Bank headquarters in Charlotte, N.C.

Throughout his long, distinguished career as a glass artist, von Roenn has created signature glass sculptures, from the equine-inspired hanging piece in the entry rotunda at Churchill Downs in his native Louisville, Ky., to the cascade of hanging crystals in the Saks Fifth Avenue in Kazakhstan.

He became director of the Master Craftsman Studio in July 2013, succeeding Robert Bischoff, the first and longtime director of the studio, who retired.