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UCLan graduate carves her creativity into new University Square

An award-winning artist has lent her talents to her former University by providing eye-catching sculptured granite artwork to frame the University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) new Square.

Award-winning artist Halima Cassell MBE sculpts granite artwork for new UCLan gateway

An award-winning artist has lent her talents to her former University by providing eye-catching sculptured granite artwork to frame the University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) new Square.

UCLan graduate Halima Cassell MBE says she has “come full circle” after being commissioned to create several pieces of work for what is Preston’s newest square for 70 years and a new focal point for the Preston Campus alongside the new, state-of-the-art, Student Centre.

Halima has designed a sculptured wall frieze that sits on the Fylde Road entrance to St Peters Gardens and marks the entrance to the University. She has also created several decorative bookends for planter seats around the 5,000 sqm space, which are integrated into the structure of the seats and provide identical signposts to the Square’s four entrances. All of these pieces of work have been machined out of granite by Hardscape to Halima’s designs.

Halima, who studied 3D design at UCLan in the late 90s before returning to complete an MA in design in 2002, said: “I was delighted when UCLan asked me to contribute to its University Square project. Like any artist, to have your work in the public domain is a great honour, but for it to be included at the place when my career began is something else.

“I spent a lot of my formative years at UCLan and it’s a place where I developed as a person and as an artist. I hope people will enjoy my work and interact with it. I’ve designed it to be very tactile.”

Halima’s work is described as having “strong geometric elements and recurrent patterns.” Her wall design takes inspiration from Lancashire’s cotton mill history.

She said: “My wall frieze focuses on arrows that catch the eye of passers-by and creates a weaving effect through the individual modules. Through this piece of work, I wanted to remember Lancashire’s weaving heritage and reflect on University forming a key element of the tapestry of life.

“In the designing of the book ends for the seats, the play with the natural and artificial light was important to me. I designed them to symphonize with the casted shadows to create a dramatic and ever-changing effect throughout the day and night.”

Although now based in Shropshire, Halima grew up in the Queen’s Park area of Blackburn. She has built a hugely successful career over the last 20 years and was awarded an MBE in the 2021 New Year Honours list, having won several prestigious awards and featuring in exhibitions around the world.

She has maintained a relationship with UCLan throughout her career, with regular visits to provide guest talks and attend events and exhibitions.

Halima added: “My mantra has always been to be patient, work hard and keep doing what I love, so I hope my story is an inspiration to the next generation of artists. My 19-year-old self would never have believed that one day I would work full-time as an artist and play such an integral part in this fantastic new Square.”

Halima is one of three artists to contribute to the new University Square and Student Centre development. It is the culmination of UCLan’s Masterplan project, launched in 2015, which set out a vision to create a state-of-the-art, sustainable campus for students, staff, visitors and communities for years to come.

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