UCSD Unveils New Triton Sculpture At Price Center East

Manuelita Brown's sculpture of the Triton stands at the base of the steps at Price Center East.
Manuelita Brown's sculpture of the Triton stands at the base of the steps at Price Center East.
Courtesy: UCSD

LA JOLLA, Calif. UC San Diego unveiled a sculpture of the University’s mascot the Triton during a ceremony Thursday morning on the Triton Steps at Price Center East. The 750-pound bronze sculpture was championed by the senior classes of 1998 and 1999 and designed by artist and alumna Manuelita Brown.

After the UCSD pep band welcomed faculty, staff, students, and community members to the event, the blow of a conch-shell signaled that start of the ceremony. 

Vice Chancellor Penny Rue served as master of ceremonies and Chancellor Marye Anne Fox welcomed the group of roughly 500 people in attendance. Other speakers included alumnus and former member of UCSD’s men’s tennis team Ping Yeh, Associated Students Vice President of Student Life Darryl Nousome, and Brown.

Yeh, 1999, of Minneapolis, spearheaded the project as a class officer and described the vision of his classmates for a “Triton-ization” of the campus. Nousome discussed the collaboration between the artist and the sculpture committee to create a symbol of unity and campus pride, as well as something students could touch for good luck and pose next to for photographs. Finally Brown, whose work can be seen around campus and the surrounding La Jolla area, spoke about the challenge of creating a Triton that met the university’s standards and best represented UCSD’s interpretation of the mythical god.

The UC San Diego cheerleaders and King Triton were also in attendance, along with student-athletes representing many of UCSD’s 23 intercollegiate athletic programs and members of the athletic department staff.

Several people posed for pictures in front of the sculpture after the ceremony and guest speakers were given ceramic conch shells made by the UCSD Crafts Center.

Brown, whose degrees are in mathematics and psychology, said she tried to combine science and art in her vision of the mythical Triton, using a man’s image for the upper half and a sea mammal for the lower half. She said the three-dimensional image had to be interesting from every view, yet represent the symbol the students wanted. Remarking on the intention of the sculpture committee, she said, “He should look confident, but not too menacing; he should be approachable and still be impressive.”

Funding for the sculpture came from two sources according to Gary Ratcliff, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Life. Senior class gifts of 1998 and 1999 got the project started, while addition funds came from the University Centers, which included the sculpture initiative in the Price Center expansion project.

In Greek mythology, Triton is known as the trumpeter of the deep and son of Poseidon, god of the sea. He is represented as a merman having the upper body of a human and tail of a fish. Like Poseidon, he carries a three-pronged spear called a trident. Triton’s special attribute is the conch shell, which he blows like a trumpet to calm or raise the seas. When blown loudly, its sound is so fearsome that Triton’s rivals imagine it to be the roar of a mighty beast and take flight.

Information in this release courtesy of Pat JaCoby, This Week @ UCSD