IU to unveil lighting display on limestone brain sculpture during public ceremony

  • April 16, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University will unveil a new interactive lighting display by renowned lighting artist Rob Shakespeare during a public ceremony from 8 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 23. The display will illuminate the giant limestone brain near the entrance to the Psychology Building on the corner of 10th Street and Walnut Grove Street.

The sculpture, the largest anatomically accurate brain sculpture in the U.S., was dedicated last year to mark the 125th anniversary of the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in a joint effort between the university and community underwritten by the Harlan Family Foundation.

The addition of lighting was made possible through the support of David T. Pfenninger, a graduate of the department, and his wife, Suzanne, also an IU Bloomington alumna.

"It's been a wonderful opportunity to work on this sculpted limestone canvas," said Shakespeare, professor emeritus of lighting design in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance. "My job as a lighting artist has been to paint moving pictures of light over this brain. This is a very colorful and animated work; it will be as though the brain is discovering and reacting to you. There are some secrets in this brain we're eager for people to uncover."

The lighting display includes spotlights every 60 degrees to provide a lightweight, floating illusion to the 12,000-pound sculpture. The work will respond to movement and feature shifting colors and patterns, which will change with the seasons or to recognize special events, such as pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month or crimson for IU sports victories.

A four-piece jazz band from the IU Jacobs School of Music will perform at the unveiling ceremony. Speakers will include Shakespeare; Pfenninger; William Hetrick, professor and chair of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences; and Jean C. Robinson, associate executive dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; and a representative from the City of Bloomington.

"I'm thrilled to see this extraordinary interactive lighting display come to fruition," Hetrick said. "The lighting is spectacular in and of itself, and also brings to life the beautiful artistry needed to create a likeness of the human brain in limestone. We are deeply grateful to David and Suzanne Pfenninger for making this possible, and for their lifelong support of IU and our department."

Shakespeare is also the creator of "Light Totem," an iconic campus landmark in front of the IU Art Museum. Erected in 2007 for the museum's 25th anniversary, the 70-foot aluminum sculpture and multicolored lighting display was permanently installed in 2010 and underwent a restoration in 2014, in response to its popularity in the IU and Bloomington community.

The designer of the limestone brain is Amy Brier, a Bloomington, Ind.-based artist whose works are featured across the IU campus, in New York City, and in private and corporate collections across the country.

"The limestone takes the light beautifully; Rob's design enhances the form and makes the brain dance," Brier said. "One of the pleasures in being an artist comes when you see your work take on a life of its own, and other people having their own relationship with it. We were in agreement about the spirit of the work from the very beginning."

The display is dedicated at Pfenninger’s request to the late Dr. David A. McAllister, who served in the Department of Psychiatry at the IU School of Medicine in the early 1980s as well as chief of psychology and later senior information technology officer at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis. McAllister was "one of the important mentors in my life, a close friend personally and a professional who did more for my understanding of consciousness and its subtleties than any other across a long, varied career," Pfenninger said. "His impact on dozens of clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and social work and nursing students was profound."

The founder of several successful companies, Pfenninger previously served as an assistant professor at the IU School of Medicine and as a clinician and administrator at the Roudebush VA. He is an executive consultant, investor and board member at several companies at the interface of Internet technology, human behavior and cognition. He was recently named the recipient of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award.

"Such a wonderful work of art deserved 24-hour display,” Pfenninger said. "This work will serve as a beacon for the department and the IU community."

All members of the IU and Bloomington community are invited to the unveiling ceremony.

Rob Shakespeare and brain sculpture

Rob Shakespeare in front of the brain sculpture outside the IU Bloomington Psychology Building. | Photo by Indiana University

Print-Quality Photo

Limestone brain sculpture

The statue is the largest anatomically accurate brain sculpture in the U.S. | Photo by Indiana University

Print-Quality Photo

Media Contacts

Liz Rosdeitcher

  • Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
  • Office 812-855-4507
  • rosdeitc@indiana.edu

Kevin Fryling

  • Office 812-856-2988
  • kfryling@iu.edu