Catalyst Fund Bridges Art and Science

October 29, 2018

Professor Emeritus Narendra Patel and his wife, Durga Patel ’72, believe that art can be both collaborative and practical. That’s why they have created the Patel Catalyst Fund in the Peck School of the Arts. The fund will be used to aid product design and three-dimensional applied art programs through scholarships, lab equipment, support for visiting artists, and interdisciplinary research.

“Product design is a good opportunity for sculpture graduates,” said Narendra. “No matter what your medium – metal, fiber, or clay – all your talents can be utilized as you’re shaping a form. Product design is useful to industry; before a company can make a full-scale item, they need the model first.”

Having taught at the Peck School for nearly three decades, Narendra knows firsthand the value of collaboration in his art making and in his teaching. In 1995, he worked with the College of Engineering & Applied Science to create a 20-foot concrete sculpture on UWM’s campus. Narendra’s sculpture class created a 5-foot model, and then an engineering class worked to translate it into a full-size concrete structure. The sculpture, located between the physics and engineering buildings, is entitled “Jantar-Mantar,” which refers to the connection between theory and practice.

“On college campuses, there can be a division between the fields of science and liberal arts,” Narendra added. “Product design helps bridge that divide.”

Narendra retired from UWM in 1996. During his time on the faculty, he developed a high-caliber sculpture program that produced nationally known alumni. Over the years, he has created numerous large-scale sculptures and murals in metal, many of which remain on display in public places around Milwaukee.

Durga received her master’s in education from UWM in 1972 and worked as a teacher for Milwaukee Public Schools for 25 years.

Glenn Williams, who leads the sculpture program in the Department of Art & Design, had this to say about the gift: “With sincere gratitude I would like to thank Narendra and Durga Patel for their generous donation to the Sculpture Program. Their gift will help support a curriculum that focuses on the importance of both the applied and theoretical aspects of contemporary sculptural practices.”