UC San Diego News Center


$1 Million Gift to Establish Endowment for UC San Diego’s Stuart Collection


Fallen Star, 2012. Do Ho Suh. Stuart Collection, UC San Diego. Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications.

They are carefully melded to the earth, absorbed into woodlands and sewn into the fabric of existing structures. The sculptures that make up the internationally renowned Stuart Collection would not exist if they were not at UC San Diego. Each artist was invited to imagine their works on campus, choosing a location that uniquely resonated with them. Launched by the vision and philanthropy of James Stuart DeSilva more than three decades ago, a new $1 million gift by Mary Looker will establish an endowment to help foster the growth of the public art collection for years to come.


La Jolla Project, 1984. Richard Fleischner. Stuart Collection, UC San Diego.

“The sculptures that comprise the Stuart Collection, created by some of the most eminent artists of our time, lend a unique distinction to UC San Diego,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “We are fortunate to have these contemporary works to enrich and engage the campus and local community, and we are grateful to Mary Looker and all of our generous supporters.”


Sun God, 1983. Niki de Saint Phalle. Stuart Collection, UC San Diego.

The innovative partnership between UC San Diego and the Stuart Foundation began in 1982 and inaugurated the entire campus as a potential site for commissioned sculpture. Now comprised of 18 outdoor public art pieces, the works are free to view and continue to draw visitors to the campus. Over the years, the full collection has been donated to UC San Diego with the responsibility of continuing to grow the body of work. A key source of support in this endeavor is the Friends of the Stuart Collection, a network of 130 arts enthusiasts who help fund new projects.

Looker, who resides in Manhattan Beach, Calif., has been a member of Friends of the Stuart Collection for more than 20 years. When approached about the idea of launching an endowment to ensure that the collection will be sustained for decades to come, she offered her wholehearted support. Her $1 million gift to jumpstart the initiative will launch a permanent fund, proceeds from which will be used to supplement fundraising for future commissions.

“We are very fortunate to have the unwavering support of Mary Looker. She and her husband, Robert, have been an integral part of the growth of the Stuart Collection for many years,” said Mary Beebe, director of the Stuart Collection. “This gift, in his memory, is a great starting point in our vision to grow the endowment as a source of long-term income. We hope to inspire and encourage others to give so that the Stuart Collection continues to flourish at UC San Diego for many years to come.”

An endowment consists of a principal gift that is invested by the UC San Diego Foundation for the purpose of generating long-term interest that can be used to support ongoing initiatives. Once the original gift is established, the funds are held in perpetuity with the payout accessible for use, ensuring a stable source of income.


Another, 2008. Barbara Kruger. Stuart Collection, UC San Diego.

Since the installation of Niki de Saint Phalle’s “Sun God” in 1983, the sculptures have become intimately tied to the identity and life of the campus. For some artists, the Stuart Collection commission represents their first permanent outdoor work. For example, Terry Allen’s “Trees” was his first public art commission. Robert Irwin’s “Two Running Violet V Forms” was the artist’s first permanent work in his home state of California; nine years later he was commissioned to create the central garden at the J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles. Do-Ho Suh made national headlines when “Fallen Star” landed gracefully on top of a building at the Jacobs School of Engineering in 2012.

The Stuart Collection is completely self-sustaining, relying on the generosity of donors to fund new projects. With the enthusiastic cooperation of the UC San Diego visual arts department and financial support from the Friends of the Stuart Collection, National Endowment for the Arts and many other organizations, foundations and individuals, the collection has expanded greatly over the past 33 years. Several new projects are currently underway and will begin to take shape over the next year.

To learn more about how to help support and grow the Stuart Collection at UC San Diego, contact Mary Beebe at or call (858) 534-2117.