College of Fine Arts, School of Art

The University of Arizona Alumni Association has named Barbara Grygutis (BFA ’68, MFA ’71) the College of Fine Arts 2024 Alumni of the Year.

Grygutis received her BFA in Studio Art in 1968 and her MFA in 1971 from the School of Art and she went on to become an award-winning public artist widely recognized and honored for her imaginative and compelling public art projects.  

“She’s one of only a handful of pioneering women in the world who work at the scale of city building, infrastructure design, and shaping large, active public spaces,” wrote Jack Becker, a public art magazine publisher in the introduction of the book, “Public Art / Public Space: The Sculptural Environments of Barbara Grygutis.” 

Barbara Grygutis: 2024 CFA Alumni of the Year, Front Row Center
“Front Row Center” by Barbara Grygutis in the University of Arizona Arts District. The University of Arizona Alumni Association will celebrated Barbara and other Alumni of the Year in an awards ceremony on Feb. 22 (noon-2p) at the DoubleTree by Hilton – Reid Park. The ceremony is open to award winners, their guests, faculty and campus partners interested in attending. 

Creator of more than 75 large-scale projects, her work can be found throughout the United States, with several major examples in Tucson and Southern Arizona. Her connection to the university is also embedded in the heart of the university’s Arts District in the form of the “Front Row Center” sculpture project and the surrounding Arts Oasis. 

“This fall, Arizona Arts is celebrating the 25th anniversary of this commission by revitalizing these works as part of significant improvements to the Arts District,” said Andy Schulz, vice president for the arts. 

“Barbara has noted that ‘putting works of art into the public domain brings ideas into the public realm, and allows everyone to be part of the experience,’” said Schulz. “This ethos of deep civic and community engagement aligns strongly with the values of the College of Fine Arts and with the university’s land-grant mission.” 

A long-time resident of Tucson, Grygutis mentors School of Art students through internships at her art studio and judges aspiring artists’ project proposals through Sculpture Tucson. She was a critical participant in the school’s spring 2023 career forum entitled “Life Lessons from Alumni.”

“Here at the School of Art, we tell our students to “focus their passion” and effect meaningful change in today’s world,” said Karen Zimmerman, School of Art interim director. “Barbara’s passion is evident in her iconic public artwork that enhances the environment, enables civic interaction, and reveals unspoken relationships between nature and humanity. And she continues to help the next generation of artists nurture their passion by stressing innovation and life skills.”


Barbara Grygutis: 2024 CFA Alumni of the Year
Barbara Grygutis

During her celebrated career as a public artist, Barbara Grygutis has been commissioned to create over 75 large-scale works throughout North America and internationally, in settings including sculpture gardens, public plazas, gateways, memorials and monuments. She also has exhibited sculptures at venues like the Smithsonian Institution, the Bronx Museum and the White House.

In her work, Barbara uses varied materials — an array of metals and stones, brick, cement, ceramic, concrete, glass, and tile — to create public spaces that enhance the built environment, encourage civic interaction and reveal unspoken relationships between nature and humanity. For each piece, she engages the public by identifying themes meaningful to the specific site and community. Barbara’s work has garnered numerous awards, and she has received the National Endowment for the Arts’ Individual Artist’s Fellowship.

A two-time graduate of the University of Arizona, Barbara has remained dedicated to the university, the School of Art and the Tucson community. She mentors students through internships at her studio, judges project proposals for Sculpture Tucson and has participated in the school’s career forum. She also created the Front Row Center and Arts Oasis sculpture garden outside the Marroney Theatre on campus.

Barbara’s iconic work demonstrates her passion and enhances public spaces around the world, and her support for students nurtures the next generation of artists.

Past College of Fine Arts
Alumni of the Year 

2023-24 … Barbara Grygutis (BFA ’68, MFA ’71)
2022-23 … John F. Meyer ‘82

2020-21 … Lindsay Utz ’03 | video
2019 … Brad Slater ‘96 | video
2018 … Guy Moon | video
2017 … Sue Scott | video
2015 … Craig Huston | video
2014 … Jeffrey Haskell ’64 | video
2013 … Elizabeth Murphy Bruns ’67 | video
2012 … Henry E. Plimack
2011 … Peter D. Murrieta ‘88

2010 … Joan L. Ashcraft