USAO moves forward with park; mourns loss of artist

Work will continue at University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma to finish the Coming Together Park, located on nearly one acre of its historic campus. USAO tragically lost artist-in-residence Jesús Moroles last week in a car accident. Pictured with Moroles several weeks before his death are art professor Layne Thrift (left) and USAO students Zachary Bridges (third from left) and Freddy Baeza.

USAO moves forward with park; mourns loss of artist


CHICKASHA – Heartbroken over the death of artist Jesús Moroles, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma administration and students are united in their commitment to finish the nearly one acre Coming Together Park located on the historic campus.

Last week, USAO learned that Moroles had been tragically killed in a car accident near Austin, Texas.

In late April, Moroles had been named the university’s artist-in-residence after having been commissioned to design and install a massive installation, Coming Together Park.  Moroles was known for training students in his chosen medium, granite.

Moroles led a five-week independent study project with USAO students in May and had been teaching a summer term course. At the time of his death, he was conducting an internship program with nine USAO students.

“It was a tremendous blow to the university to learn of Moroles’ untimely death,” said President John Feaver. “But knowing the commitment Moroles had for our students and the university—and the impression he left—I know we will be able to carry out his vision and complete the Coming Together Park, in his memory.”

Despite his death, the university, along with the support and guidance of Jesús Moroles Studios based in Rockport, Texas, will continue the Coming Together Park installation as planned.

“We are fortunate to have had the time we did with Jesús to witness his passion, his vision and his dedication to the park,” said Michael Nealeigh, vice president of University Advancement and project manager. “His overall design for the park is virtually complete; and it tells us what is still left to be done. We are thankful to have the backing from his studio to help see this project to completion. I believe finishing the park in his memory would mean the world to Jesús.”

USAO art professor Layne Thrift noted that Moroles was not just a sculptor, but was a great teacher and inspiration to USAO students as well as artists across the world.

“I know our students are grieving, but they treasure the time they had learning from Jesús,” said Thrift. “In addition, artists who have worked with Jesús are responding to his tragic death, including internationally known artist and sculptor, James Surls.”

According to Thrift, Surls will serve as juror of this fall’s Seven-State Biennial Exhibition, a competitive art exhibition hosted by the Nesbitt Gallery at USAO.

Surls said the main reason he has agreed to be the show’s juror is because Moroles had asked him as a personal favor; and after Moroles had described the work he was doing at USAO.

“It is with a certain reverence that I honor the intent of Moroles’ purpose by being the juror for USAO’s upcoming Seven-State Biennial Exhibition,” said Surls. “Not only will jurying this exhibition give me the chance to see what is going on in a seven-state region, but it will also give me the chance to be in Chickasha and walk in a great granite courtyard that Jesús put together for USAO.”

USAO student Freddy Baeza worked very closely with Moroles during the independent study program and reflected on Moroles as a mentor.

“He always told us there are no excuses why we shouldn’t be able to keep going, no matter the obstacles,” said Baeza. “With his death, I feel like we should move forward; that is what he would want and that is what we are doing with finishing the park.”

In addition to moving forward with the installation of the park, the university will continue planning a special event in September. The event, originally called “Coming Together with Jesús Moroles,” was intended to honor Moroles, raise money for the park and promote the university. Now, it will be an occasion to pay tribute to Moroles and the work he did for the university, for its students, and for the art he loved.

To stay up-to-date with the park’s progress and for more information, please visit