Ralph Helmick

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Ralph Helmick
Born (1952-02-08) February 8, 1952 (age 71)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Known forSculpture, Public art

Ralph Helmick (born 1952) is an American sculptor and public artist.

Early life and education[edit]

Helmick was born in Pittsburgh, PA, the middle of three sons of an electrical engineer and a homemaker. While in elementary school he partook in the Carnegie Museum’s renowned Tam O’Shanter art classes for children, whose alumni include Andy Warhol, Annie Dillard, Philip Pearlstein and Jonathan Borofsky. His family later moved to Williamsville, NY, outside Buffalo. Helmick received a BA in American Studies from the University of Michigan. He studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and then earned an MFA in sculpture from a joint program at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tufts University.[1]

As a child then a student, he was very influenced by the science and the design of the Foucault pendulum and Muybridge’s sequential photos.[2]


Helmick has created over 50 complex, layered sculpture commissions, working in various materials (metal, stained glass, cast resin, found objects) to realize large-scale public artworks in courthouses, parks, airports, schools, hospitals, museums, and other civic spaces across the US. His works play on human perception, and often employ anamorphosis, an optical phenomenon where images are resolved from a precise perspective. The dynamic relationship between science and art is a frequent inspiration for his designs.[2][3]

Helmick's award-winning works include the Arthur Fiedler Memorial on the Charles River Esplanade; the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial at Austin's Auditorium Shores; Rabble at the North Carolina Museum of Art; Landing at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; Heart and Mind at the Oregon Institute of Technology. In 2019 The Constellation won the prestigious CODAaward for International Institutional Artwork.

He was a 2009 Artist-in-Residence at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation in Charlotte, NC.[4] In 2014, he juried the Public Art Network Year in Review. His own commissions had been awarded the PAN YiR on eight previous occasions.[5]

Helmick Sculpture is based in Newton, Massachusetts.

Prominent works[edit]

Edifice (2018)[edit]

Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, IN

The work consists of a reproduction of the campus landmark of the Main Building made up of 4,100 small pewter heads hung on 2,221 cables suspended from the ceiling. The pewter heads, which are silver except for the golden ones making up the dome, were created by scanning the likeness of students, staff and faculty members. The work is meant to symbolize the diversity and cohesion of the community. The scans were conducted in November 2017 and the work installed in October 2018. Edifice hangs on the second floor of the Duncan Student Center, which is part of the Notre Dame stadium.[6][7][8]

The Constellation (2018)[edit]

The Founder’s Memorial Park, Abu Dhabi, UAE

The Constellation is a monumental public artwork that forms the centerpiece of The Founder’s Memorial Park in Abu Dhabi, a permanent national tribute to the UAE’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan [1918-2004], a transformative leader who championed peace, tolerance, women’s rights and the environment.

n + 1 (2018)[edit]

Tampa International Airport/ Tampa, Florida A streamlined sculpture of an adult leatherback sea turtle floats beneath a cloud of small hatchlings that articulate the same form at a larger scale. This “double portrait” illustrates biological fact (the multitude of newborns from which a single individual may survive to adulthood) while simultaneously evoking an intergenerational spiritual connection. Nature and Spirit.

Field Guide (2017)[edit]

Polytrauma & Blind Rehabilitation Center/ Veterans Administration Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, California

An epic latticework screen stands outside the entrance to the VA’s Polytrauma & Blind Rehabilitation Center. While from a distance one’s first impression is of a vast linear abstraction, graphic clues soon give way to recognition of overlapping local plant and animal forms. At once serious and sly, sophisticated and innocent, Field Guide aims to promote contemplation on several levels, offering a challenge in which viewers can find aesthetic engagement, intellectual stimulation, and a renewed connection to Nature.

Schwerpunkt (2016)[edit]

The McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT/ Cambridge, Massachusetts

One hundred unique sculptures of neurons are suspended in the 3-story entrance of this world class research institute. Executed in different configurations and a range of sizes, they cascade in a seemingly random array, their gold-leafed surfaces reflecting light throughout the space. When viewed from a single perspective on the balcony, the forms optically cohere into a macroscopic rendering of a human brain.

Floating World (2014)[edit]

Biorenewables Complex, Iowa State University / Ames, Iowa

This three-story suspended sculpture uses eight laser-cut steel panels to depict changing horizons that illustrate the evolution of agriculture from the nineteenth-century to the modern day. These historical panels are interspersed with abstract perforated "mist" layers, and framed above by a "sun" sequence, and below by a succession of terrazzo floor graphics.

It is inspired by the paintings of Grant Wood, and by compositional strategies employed in Japanese woodblock prints (ukiyo-e, literally "floating world").[9]

Rara Avis (2001)[edit]

Rara Avis, Chicago (2001)

Midway Airport / Chicago, Illinois

This 28-foot (8.5 m) sculpture of a red cardinal is made of around 1,800 handcrafted small sculptures of aircraft.[10]

Rara Avis was recognized by the Public Art Network Year in Review in 2002.[11]

Jurisprudents (2000)[edit]

Jurisprudents, East St. Louis (2000)

Melvin Price Federal Courthouse / E. St. Louis, Illinois

This is a sculpture of two 15-foot (4.6 m) tall heads facing each other across a courthouse atrium, each composed of around 1,500 small sculptures.[12]

The design for this commission evolved in the wake of the acquittals of O. J. Simpson and the police who beat Rodney King.

Jurisprudents received the GSA National Design Honor Award for Art in 2000.[13]

Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial (1994)[edit]

Lady Bird Lake / Austin, Texas

Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial commemorates Vaughan, the blues guitarist. It features a realistic figure of the musician in a meditative pose, with a shadow of the musician playing the guitar. It is installed at Auditorium Shores on Lady Bird Lake, where Vaughan performed many concerts.[14] It is one of the city's most popular tourist attractions, and has been awarded "Best Public Artwork in Austin" by The Austin Chronicle multiple times.[15]

Arthur Fiedler Memorial (1984)[edit]

Charles River Esplanade / Boston, Massachusetts

This is a large-scale sculptural bust of Arthur Fiedler, the late conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, formed from stacked aluminum plates.[16]

The sculpture is located on an island across from the Hatch Shell, the site of many concerts conducted by Fiedler.[17] The art critic Sebastian Smee cites it as an example of high quality public art in Boston.[18]


Helmick and artist-engineer Stuart Schechter (1958- ) collaborated on a number of projects, working as Helmick & Schechter from 1993 to 2008.[3][19]



  1. ^ "Helmick Sculpture: About the Artist". Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  2. ^ a b "STRAIGHT TALK: Ralph Helmick". SCIART MAGAZINE. Retrieved 31 July 2022.
  3. ^ a b Capasso, Nick. (September 2001). "Brainstorms: The Public Art of Ralph Helmick + Stuart Schechter". Sculpture Magazine.
  4. ^ 20 years of Artists-In-Residence McColl Center
  5. ^ Keithline, Elizabeth. "The Public Art Network 2014 Year in Review". Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  6. ^ Radler, Claire. "Photo of the Week: Heads up | Stories | Notre Dame Magazine | University of Notre Dame". Notre Dame Magazine. Retrieved 2 December 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Be Immortalized: Become a Work of Art // Events Calendar // Snite Museum of Art // University of Notre Dame". sniteartmuseum.nd.edu. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  8. ^ "EDIFICE INSTALLED AT NOTRE DAME UNIVERSITY'S DUNCAN STUDENT CENTER". helmicksculpture. 10 October 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  9. ^ Morain, Michael (12 July 2014). "Agriculture, history and art coalesce at ISU exhibit". The Des Moines Register. Des Moines.
  10. ^ "Ralph Helmick and Stuart Schechter's Rara Avis". Chicago Public Art Program. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  11. ^ Helmick, Ralph. "Rara Avis." 2001. Public Art Year in Review Slide Set, 2002, CD
  12. ^ "Melvin Price Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse". U.S. General Services Administration. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  13. ^ "GSA to honor 7 projects where quality shows". The Washington Times. 24 March 2001. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  14. ^ "Austin Art in Public Places Tour" (PDF). Austin Art in Public Places. July 2008. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  15. ^ "Best Public Artwork: Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue". The Austin Chronicle. 1995. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  16. ^ Morris, Marie (2009). Frommer's Boston Day by Day. Frommer's. p. 95. ISBN 978-0470497661.
  17. ^ "Arthur Fiedler Memorial". Boston Art Commission. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  18. ^ Smee, Sebastian (6 October 2013). "Moving beyond the bronze age". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  19. ^ Huston Paschal, Linda Johnson Dougherty (2003). "Ralph Helmick and artist Stuart Schechter". Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina presents Defying gravity: contemporary art and flight. Huston Paschal, Linda Johnson Dougherty, Robert Wohl (eds). North Carolina Museum of Art, 2003. p. 124 ff. ISBN 9780882599892.

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