Baroness Floella Benjamin with the stunning bronze sculpture

Bronze sculpture celebrates Baroness Benjamin’s tenure as Exeter Chancellor

The University of Exeter has commemorated Baroness Floella Benjamin’s successful tenure as Chancellor with a stunning bronze sculpture.

The striking bronze bust, which also features Baroness Benjamin’s hands to symbolise the friendly and inclusive style in which she greeted each student during graduation, has been placed at the heart of the Streatham Campus.

In recognition of Baroness Benjamin’s special relationship with Exeter graduates, the eye-catching work is situated in one of busiest student areas, adjacent to the Student’s Guild building.

The specially chosen site is also a natural addition to the University’s existing sculpture trail, a popular attraction for both the University community and visitors alike.

The bronze sculpture was unveiled at a special ceremony on the Streatham Campus on Friday, February 10 2017.

Baroness Benjamin said: “I am delighted that my 10 fantastic years as Chancellor of the University of Exeter will be celebrated with this wonderful sculpture - who would have thought!

“One of my main and most enjoyable duties as Chancellor was attending graduation and being able to personally greet each and every student. It was such a joy and a privilege to meet so many motivated young people, and I always did my best to inspire them to change the world.

“To have the sculpture feature so prominently in the very heart of the campus’s student area is an honour and a reminder of those wonderful ceremonies. It also serves as a legacy of my overwhelming delight at being a part of such an important day in thousands of young people’s lives.”

The distinguished bust has been created by renowned Devon sculptor Luke Shepherd, who was personally commissioned by Baroness Benjamin for the important artwork.

Work on the sculpture began in the summer of 2016, when the first sitting took place in Baroness Benjamin’s South London residence.  Starting with a small ball of clay, Luke made small and subtle additions with each sitting, to develop the sculpture and bring out Baroness Benjamin’s inner essence.

In total, 10 individual sittings - each taking around 90 minutes - took place over a period of four months to produce the clay sculpture, which weighed 60kg. The final sculpture was then finished in Luke’s studio in Ashburton.

The bronze, which took two months to cast and weighs 25kg, was then poured at the Arch Bronze Foundry in Putney.

Luke said: “A portrait bronze must capture an essence and be instantly recognizable. I try to start with a totally open mind and let the sitter’s personality impress itself upon me.  Floella was wonderful throughout the commission and immediately made me feel at ease.”

The final bronze bust is located opposite the Queen’s Building and next to Devonshire House, at the heart of the Streatham Campus.

Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter said: “We are delighted to be able to celebrate Floella’s 10-year tenure as Chancellor of the University of Exeter with this wonderful sculpture.

“As well as capturing Floella’s warmth, personable and friendly character, the sculpture provides a fitting reminder of the positive and lasting impact she had on so many of our student’s time here at Exeter,  not least during their graduation ceremonies.”

Date: 10 February 2017

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