In August of 1999 Pam Mathews moved to Cleveland where her husband David Potter had just been named the new President of Delta State University.
Pam was a painter having worked for the National Endowment for the Arts before moving south, and she called her new friend Nan Sanders, a fellow painter, to discuss the idea of developing a Sculpture Garden on the front lawn of the newly completed Bologna Performing Arts Center on the DSU campus.
Pam’s idea was to have a biennial competition which would bring in 10 new pieces every other year. At the end of their stay, her plan was to have a purchase prize that would become part of a permanent collection that remained on campus. Her dream was to set up a way of developing a noteworthy collection of public art that would make the campus of Delta State very unique.
At that time there was nothing like this in Mississippi, and when the first competition was held in 2000, the unique concept was championed as a great success and brilliant idea. Since that time, the story of the Sculpture Garden has been marked with extremes--tragedy and incredible success, proving that even in sad circumstances, good ideas with willing partners can prevail. In 2002, after the second competition had arrived, Pam was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She fought bravely for two years, but before the second competition concluded, she died in April of 2004.
It was up to her friend and colleague Nan Sanders to be sure that her brilliant ideas and the traditions she started were continued in a way that honored her work.
For the next two and a half years, the Sculpture Garden competition was suspended while the formal plans for the layout and construction of the current garden were completed.
Nan’s mother-in-law, Hazel Sanders, generously funded the project, so that, in the fall of 2007, the third class was installed in the new Hazel and Jimmy Sanders Sculpture Garden, and Nan Sanders renewed the rewarding work of carrying on the dreams of her dear friend.
Because of the generosity of many people throughout the years, Delta State has become noted for it’s permanent collection which now numbers 22 pieces, many of which have been placed over the campus while the past competition winners and current exhibit are in the formal garden in front of the BPAC. The lists of the works and artists can be found in the Archive section of this site.
Please note the diversity of backgrounds of the artists that have shown in the Garden over the past 15 years. They have come from over 15 states over the six competitions we have held. The University and Sculpture Garden Committee, working closely with the Art Department, are very proud to have forged new friendships with these talented artists.
The seventh competition arrived in August of 2015. These next couple years have a new emphasis on music, and a portion of these pieces are featured on the front lawn of the Grammy Museum Mississippi, which is looking forward to it’s grand opening in early 2016.
The Sanders Family is dedicated to fulfilling Pam Mathews’ visions for showcasing artists and their work in a setting where it is treasured. Delta State University has had a tradition of excellence in the Arts and this is a testimonial of its commitment.