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A Story of Art, History, and Human Drama

Roots of Knowledge envelops art, science, history, and scholarship, and has created an unprecedented platform for the University to further provide engaged learning opportunities in new and dynamic ways.


A Window into the History of Human Intelligence

Utah Valley University (UVU) has witnessed substantial growth since its modest start 75 years ago. What began as a vocational school during World War II is today the largest university in the state with over 33,000 students. To coincide with its 75th anniversary in November, UVU will unveil an ambitious public art project of extraordinary proportions: Roots of Knowledge.

The bold and large-scale permanent installation taps the ancient storytelling art form of stained glass, while uniquely adapting it for a modern, secular setting. Exploring the evolution of knowledge through this historic medium has provided UVU a palette to create a singular artistic landmark and powerfully embody the University’s unique commitment to engaged learning. Roots of Knowledge will anchor an undulating wall of windows at UVU’s library entrance comprising 80 individual panes totaling 10 feet in height and 200 feet in length.

A Story of Art, History, and Human Drama

Roots of Knowledge is a panorama of history and human drama. The intricate details incorporated into every window represent years of painstaking research on the events and people that shaped humankind from the days of wooly mammoths and cavemen to the iPhone.

The story begins with a life-size depiction of one of the oldest living trees – the bristlecone pine Methuselah – in spring, with its roots and branches traveling chronologically, interlacing like the strands of a DNA chain across all 80 panels. Methuselah intersects with A Tree of Life representing various interpretations of the beginning of the world. The windows are rich with colorful and historical detail. A single window shows important representations of the 13th and 14th centuries, including Kublai Khan of the Mongol Empire; the Mosque of Isfahan in Iran; Dante Alighieri, “the Father of the Italian Language”; and the University of Krakow, the oldest university in Poland, whose most famous student was Copernicus. Another, from the late 1800s through the early 1900s, includes a quote by Cuban revolutionary Jose Julian Marti; portraits of Marie Curie and Henrik Ibsen; a kiosk in Paris; and the great Indian hornbill, the symbol of the Bombay Natural History Society.

The Engaged Learning Process

Prior to physically creating a window, Holdman Studio artists collaborated with professors and students to incorporate the most meaningful representations of knowledge and history. Scholars shared insights and students conducted research that helped inspire the Holdman studio teams.

Each pane is first mapped out on a storyboard and then sent to Photoshop, where it is refined. Once the layout and images are approved by Tom Holdman and lead artist Cameron Oscarson, technical lead line drawers convert the drawings into thousands of pieces of glass, which will eventually be connected by lead borders.

From there, glass pickers and cutters find the ideal texture, form, and shape of glass for each individual piece of the project. The glass is cut by hand or a water jet machine before it is transferred to the glass painters, who paint the pieces with a mixture of powdered glass and liquid (primarily clove oil, as well as other oils, water, and vinegar).

Assemblers solder and cement the lead lines, add a patina finish and reinforce the glass with steel. The window is then insulated with plate glass on the outside and tempered glass on the inside, ensuring that no moisture gets inside.

Fast Facts About the Roots of Knowledge Project

80 individual complete panes of stained glass. More than 60,000 pieces of glass used along with rock, fossils, coins, meteorite, petrified wood, and coral. The work spans 200 feet in length by 10 feet in height.
More than 12 years to complete from inception to completion. Glass types used include Uroboros, Youghiogheny, Kokomo Opalescent Glass, Oceana, Spectrum, Lamberts, and Fremont.
More than 350 UVU students participated in the project, as painters, project managers, programmers, designers, and artists, reflecting Utah Valley University’s commitment to engaged learning.