I was on the phone with a close friend from college, and he asked me about all the noise on my end. “Oh, sorry,” I said. “I’m on the Lawn. Those are students throwing a Frisbee”—a dog started barking—“and also that.”
My friend was sitting behind a desk in an office tower, cussing me.
One of the perks of this job is getting to walk over to the Lawn and recharge. Two hundred years after the founding, the Academical Village is still an energy source, still a center of the action. From that foundational core radiates the modern University.
For this special bicentennial issue of Virginia Magazine, we wanted to animate that metaphor, visually and tactilely and interactively, and show past projecting into present.
We came up with a double-gatefold, two pages unfolding into four. Print readers will find it on Pages 18 and 19 and in the landscape they open to reveal. It lets us go beyond a linear “that was then, this is now,” to show the geometric growth. You see an iconic image, which takes up roughly one quarter of a page, unfold into a panorama 16 times the size. Even then, it can’t sweep in all of Grounds—for example, Scott Stadium.
To achieve the effect, we needed a historical image drawn from an elevated perspective, not the era’s customary eye level. That brought us to an 1856 work by John Serz, the German-born engraver whose repertoire included banknotes. Serz obligingly captured the Lawn from a tilted perspective, as if engraved from a hot-air balloon hovering south of not-yet-built, not-yet-old Cabell Hall.
It then fell to Steve Hedberg, our creative director and an acclaimed painter, to explode Serz’s muted artifact into something current and vibrant. Fidelity to the original’s scale and perspective required good light and the patience of Michelangelo. As Steve said along the way, “If I could go back to 1856 and ask the engraver to just come up a little bit higher, and push that perspective point back about two more miles, it would really help me out.”
The project entailed more than 50 hours’ studio time, constant measuring, jigsawing modern photos from all available angles, and making infinite artistic choices.
The result, in acrylic on birch, is an original Hedberg, like those found in the U.S. Department of State and other civic and private collections. It’s a bicentennial gift. Happy birthday, UVA. Here’s to the next century. And many more.
S. Richard Gard Jr. (Col ’81)
Vice President, Communications,
University of Virginia Alumni Association