Landscaped corner transforms med center's southern entrance

by Karen Burbach, UNMC public relations | September 26, 2019

Image with caption: From left, Robert and Polina Schlott, Larisa Poluektova, M.D., Ph.D., and Nebraska Medicine CEO James Linder, M.D.

From left, Robert and Polina Schlott, Larisa Poluektova, M.D., Ph.D., and Nebraska Medicine CEO James Linder, M.D.

UNMC and the Nebraska Medical Center have a new front door.

On Tuesday, campus leaders and invited guests gathered to thank philanthropists Bob and Polina Schlott for their contributions in making possible the new southern entrance, which has been named the Medical Center Plaza.

The greenspace and lighted walkway, located on the northwest corner of 42nd and Leavenworth streets, features 18 ceramic columnar sculptures created by Omaha artist Jun Kaneko. The sculptures are incorporated into a grove of mature trees. Benches line the walk and provide visitors, medical center employees and students the opportunity to seek calmness and beauty amid a tranquil park-like setting.

See photos from the event.

"For the first time, visitors who travel up 42nd Street to our campus will have a first impression that matches the extraordinary patient care, research and education that takes place within our campus," said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.

Two monument signs stand across 42nd Street, on the northeast corner, in front of the Dr. Edwin G. & Dorothy Balbach Davis Global Center, welcoming visitors to a campus that also has been transformed thanks to generous donors and public-private partnerships.

"We now have an entrance -- a gateway, if you will -- that matches the high quality of this campus's work," said University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen.

"UNMC represents the best of what's going on in Nebraska," said Bob Schlott. "It is truly an amazing facility with a lot of momentum."

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Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., spoke at the event.

During Tuesday's ceremony, the Schlotts unveiled a plaque in honor of Polina's mother, Larisa Poluektova, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the UNMC Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience and co-director of the Translational Mouse Model Core Facility. The plaque recognizes Dr. Poluektova for "serving others at UNMC for more than two decades" and identifies her as a: relentless investigator, pioneering discovery and advancing biomedical research.

Bob Schlott said the project was personally meaningful because it featured artwork as its centerpiece; highlighted the work of Kaneko, a long-time acquaintance and business neighbor; and provided an opportunity to honor his mother-in-law, who "brought me my wife."

Dr. Poluektova and her family left Riga, Latvia, in 1996 to come to Nebraska -- first to Creighton University and then to UNMC. Her laboratory provides the biomedical community with environmentally, genetically and xenotransplantation-modified mice for the study of human immunity and vaccines.

And as medical research transforms lives, so, too, does artwork, Dr. Gold said, noting that the medical center has one of the largest Healing Arts Programs in the country.

"We all want to make the world a better place and Jun strives for that in his practice," said Susan Schonlau, who represented the Jun Kaneko Studio.

The 13-foot columnar sculptures, hand-painted slip and glaze on high-fire ceramics, each weigh 3,000 pounds, Schonlau said. "They can be appreciated as individual pieces as well as a collective, scaled larger than humans to be uplifting yet similar enough to be personal."

"Columns and towers watch over us and inspire us to reach higher and achieve more," said Jim Linder, M.D., CEO of Nebraska Medicine.

Kaneko's columnar sculptures, a public art project titled Origin, are only the latest addition to a campus that also features the "Hope Tower" by world-renowned artist James Carpenter and "Search" Tower, also by Kaneko.

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Jun Kaneko attended Tuesday's event.

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Kathryn Edeal
October 19, 2019 at 11:21 AM

Collage of occupations behind this art now added to UNMC Campus. I hope to see this on Friday.

Adily Aziz
September 26, 2019 at 4:35 PM

A wonderful monument for our beautiful University. As we say in Africa 'some people still have big hearts'. Thanks to the Schlotts for having big hearts.

Tom O'Connor
September 26, 2019 at 10:53 AM

A great addition to our already beautiful campus! Thanks to the Schlotts for making this happen and what an awesome tribute to one of UNMC's outstanding researchers.

Jerrie Dayton
September 26, 2019 at 10:08 AM

It is wonderful to walk the campus and find so much art. Inspiring and restorative. Thank you to all the donors who have made this such a unique place.

Traci Clemons
September 26, 2019 at 8:29 AM

A beautiful contribution to Nebraska Medicine and tribute to Larisa Poluektova, whom I have a great fondness and respect for. Showcasing medicine, science, art, and diversity to form the gates to this institution is symbolic of our mission.

Lisa Spellman
September 26, 2019 at 7:59 AM

It's a beautiful entrance to campus and an even more beautiful recognition of Dr. Larisa Poluektova's work! Thank-you Polina and Robert Schlott!