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World-Renowned Artist Maya Lin Commissioned to Create “Seeing Through the Universe” Sculpture for the Obama Presidential Center

August 4, 2022 at 8:45 AM CDT

President Obama to name Water Garden surrounding the sculpture after his mother, Ann Dunham

CHICAGO – Today, on his 61st birthday, President Obama announced that the Water Garden at the Obama Presidential Center will be named in honor of his mother, Ann Dunham. The Water Garden, located near the Center’s north entrance, will serve as a designated place on campus meant for reflection and relaxation. The garden will be anchored by a commissioned art installation from world-renowned artist, Maya Lin. The sculpture, titled “Seeing Through the Universe,” will feature an upright “oculus” piece that mists and a flat “pebble” piece that fills with water and then cascades over.

“When we thought about what may be a fitting way to commemorate my mother’s influence on my sister and me, I thought about where she would want to be in this space,” said President Obama. “I could picture her sitting on one of the benches on a nice summer afternoon, smiling and watching a bunch of kids running through the fountain, and I thought that would capture who she was as well as just about anything else.”

Maya Lin, one of President Obama’s favorite artists, is an Ohio native and Yale University graduate known for her ability to ground her work in nature. She has received distinguished recognition for her work, including her designs of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., and the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. Lin creates art that invites visitors to engage with it and the surrounding environment. In 2016, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, the Nation’s highest civilian honor.

The Ann Dunham Water Garden will be made possible by generous contributions from the Obama Administration and campaign alumni community.

“It means so much to us that this gesture comes from the team who helped President Obama reach the White House and serve the American people,” said Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett. “President Obama’s mother was an inspiration to him, exemplifying passion, curiosity, and a commitment to service. Our hope is that the Ann Dunham Water Garden and the Obama Presidential Center inspire the same qualities within our visitors.”

The Obama Foundation seeks to make the Obama Presidential Center a place for community gathering, providing significant educational offerings both within the Center and in the natural space surrounding it. The Ann Dunham Water Garden follows the recent announcements of other open, public spaces including the John Lewis Plaza, the Eleanor Roosevelt Fruit and Vegetable Garden, and the Hadiya Pendleton Winter Garden.

The Obama Presidential Center broke ground in September 2021 and is estimated to bring more than 700,000 visitors to the South Side each year. The Center is expected to open its doors in 2025.

A rendering of the Water Garden can be found  here (Opens in a new tab).


Contact: Courtney D. Williams, [email protected]