Troy University is constructing a new park and cultural arts center thanks to a $500,000 grant.
Named the Janice Hawkins Cultural Arts Park, the project is underway between the Troy University’s chancellor’s house and McKinley Drive, where the existing park is being updated and renovated.
The Daniel Foundation, a private foundation in Alabama founded by the Daniel Construction Co., donated $500,000 to Troy University to aid with the project.
The Daniel Foundation has donated to the university many times in the past, including the building project students know as Patterson Hall.
“They have been big supporters of Troy for a long time,” said Jean Laliberte, associate vice chancellor for development.
The park will include many elements such as walking trails through the woods, a lagoon and a significant amount of green area. Its most unique attraction will be 200 terra cotta statues of Chinese warriors.
Huo Bao Zhu, a world-renowned Chinese sculptor, donated 100 warrior statues plus 10 additional statues to the university. Zhu, a long-time friend of the administration, also donated Rodin’s version of “The Thinker,” located outside the Shackelford quad.
“Not everybody can travel to China,” Laliberte said. “So to have a piece of that and have it in Troy is incredible.”
“I think it can open up avenues of conversation between American and Asian students,” said Rob Ackerman, director of planned giving. “It exposes our students to art and culture that they typically couldn’t see without traveling.”
“It will be a cultural crossroads,” said Janice Hawkins, first lady of Troy University, “a place where east meets west,” according to Trojan News Center.
Ackerman has been involved in the project for two years, and the original park has been on campus since 2008.
Stewart Hall, sometimes referred to as “Old Stewart” or “Old Saga,” a former dining hall, is being converted to an International Art Center, which is where the university’s graphic design department will be housed.
“It gives them a state-of-the-art workplace and a state-of-the-art classroom,” Ackerman said. “It should increase their enrollment numbers. Double is what we’re shooting for.”
Two art galleries will be in the new art center: one for student or touring work that will change periodically and one for exhibiting professional work bought by or donated to the university.
One of the first temporary exhibits will consist heavily of work by world-renowned artists who are former Troy faculty members.
“For kids really interested in studying art, I think it’s gonna be fantastic,” said Laliberte. “You just don’t see many towns the size of Troy that have as much art and culture as here.”
Downstairs in the refurbished building will be an Interpretive Center, where students can learn about the park and the artwork featured in the center from a short video and some informational kiosks.
As part of the project, the university also plans to slightly refurbish and add permanent lighting to the outdoor amphitheater.
“When that is fully functioning… it’s going to open up avenues for music and theater and dance,” Ackerman said. “We’ve got some incredible talent here, not just in our students but also in our faculty.”
Laliberte also said that the university plans to grow in other helpful ways.
“We’ve added parking over the years; we just added new housing,” Laliberte said. “We’re going to take care of our students.
“The park will continue to evolve… There will be other things to come as we move along… I think Troy’s going to become a destination place.”
The university hopes that the park “will be a botanical showplace, as well as a center of relaxation, meditation and outdoor study for the University family and visitors to the Troy Campus,” according to a Troy University Instagram post in July.
The dedication for the park will be held Nov. 4.