UCSD's Stuart Collection of outdoor sculpture seeks to enrich the cultural and intellectual life of the campus and the surrounding community. The current 16 works in the collection are sprinkled throughout several hundred acres of the mazelike central campus. Only a few are accessible by car. So, in order to visit them all, you end up getting quite a lot of physical as well as mental exercise.
Early mornings or early evenings in summer are perfect for the walk, when cool sea air washes in from the west and the sun either hides behind the marine layer of clouds or spreads light and shadow across the sleepy campus. Better, too, are weekends, when parking is free and abundant throughout the campus.
To begin, stop at the information booth at UCSD's south entrance on Gilman Drive (just north of La Jolla Village Drive) and obtain a free Stuart Collection guide booklet and campus map. On weekdays, you may be advised to park in the Gilman parking structure ahead; on weekends you can park nearly anywhere.
The guide booklet and campus maps depict the locations of the 16 permanent works, plus the looping route of a suggested "walking tour" -- to be followed slavishly, or ignored if you like to improvise. Either way you'll cover approximately three miles in up to three hours of time.
Let your tour be a multisensory experience. Cool off in the drips and drops of water falling to earth from the outstretched fingers of Kiki Smith's Standing, a female figure mounted high on a concrete-cast tree trunk. With a discerning eye, compare the physical features of today's UTC area with those of 20 years ago as immortalized in William Wegman's bronze map titled La Jolla Vista View. Get a complete look at Alexis Smith's Snake Path from an upper floor of the Geisel Library, then explore its tiled, 560-foot length at ground level. Embrace the sun-warmed granite blocks of Richard Fleischner's La Jolla Project. Listen to Terry Allen's lead-encased Trees, one offering up recorded songs, another emitting spoken poems and stories, a third offering no sound at all. Taste and smell the slightly acerbic municipal water arcing from Michael Asher's fully functional stone replica of a typical indoor chilled-water fountain.
Don't miss the Collection's newest and most massive work -- Bear, by Tim Hawkinson, an impossibly balanced cairn of eight massive granitic boulders, weighing 180 tons, quarried from a local source. Another must-see is Bruce Nauman's Vices and Virtues, a kinetic light sculpture constructed of nearly one mile of neon tubing. Save it for last, when twilight is near.