On a rainy May 6 morning, a crowd waited for Chicago architectural artist Edra Solo’s flight to arrive for the dedication of her new sculpture in the Marrow’s Marble Quarry area adjoining Dr. Alan Solomon’s GATOP Garden. UT has named the site the UT/ GATOP Arboretum and Education Center
Solo teamed with the UT Art School to complete the steel and marble structure for the entryway to UT’s 7-acre tract that adjoins Solomon’s garden. Part of this land was gifted by Dr. Solomon to UT, which is also building a gated entrance along Delrose Avenue.
UT helped the artist execute the sculptural piece by laser cutting the designs into the artist’s airy Corten steel piece, metal designed to weather naturally.
Marble for the built-in seating was cut from slabs left on this quarry site, which was cut and polished by Knoxville Marble Company – one of several collaborators of this special UT area, which will host future gatherings on the scenic spot.
Also helping to prepare the general meeting site are: Johnson & Galyon, Sanders Pace Architecture and Malia Engineering. Solo said during her dedication remarks that the piece evokes some of the elaborate iron entryways that are used in her native Puerto Rico. The sculpture and rolling hills are “intended to allow visitors a place of contemplative rest.”
The GATOP Gardens have been opened for touring by the public during the Dogwood Arts Festival in recent years.
It has an interesting history. For the last 40+ years, Dr. Solomon, a now-retired UT Medical Center oncologist and immunologist, has been building stone walls and trails in a meditative conifer-rich garden on the 18-acre east Knoxville tract. Winding stone stairs and trails meander around a green rolling hillside, graced with labeled plantings and original stone and metal sculptures interspersed along the way.
The gardens have been described by visitors as spiritual, peaceful or meditative in nature.
Solomon quips that he is really a stone mason who practiced medicine as a side hobby. It’s easy to imagine how this hands-on craft gave respite to his earlier stressful physician days. He learned this ancient craft by working alongside the craftsmen hired to help build the early structures. His dream grew as he mastered these ancient artisan skills.
Solomon plans to leave his remaining 12 acres to UT so the public will hopefully always have a peaceful natural place to recharge, as the general area continues to develop. Some 22 acres of heaven.
Notes: Here’s a link to an earlier story in KnoxTNToday.com. Prior owners named the garden GATOP for God’s Answer to Our Prayers.
Nick Della Volpe is a lawyer, a gardener and a former member of Knoxville City Council.