gator

The gator sculpture to be revealed Tuesday. 

An alligator will be lit up in front of the University Auditorium on Tuesday. 

But no animals will be harmed. 

UF administration is hosting its inaugural “Lighting of the Gator” event, illuminating a reusable steel Gator sculpture that will stand at 8 feet tall and 8 feet 6 inches in diameter. 

The event will celebrate the changing seasons, holidays and the end of Fall on the lawn of the University Auditorium, on the corner of Newell Drive and Union Road, UF President Kent Fuchs wrote in an email. 

Students and faculty can watch the Gator shine bright in the center of UF campus with cookies, hot chocolate and hot apple cider from 5 to 6 p.m.

The lighting of the sculpture is a reflection of the theme of light, uniting students who may celebrate different holidays through a symbol they all resonate with: a gator, said Leslie Tharp, a UF College of the Arts alumna and local Gainesville metal artist who created the sculpture, in an email.

“The theme lends well to the changing of the seasons, the lightness of celebration and to the lighting as an event to gather and celebrate together,” Tharp said. “It seems brilliant to me and very inclusive to gather to celebrate light.”

Tharp and a team of sculptors and metalworkers used metal artmaking techniques including forging, bending, welding and grinding metal to create the sculpture, she said. 

Initially, the Gator sculpture was only to be used for a holiday video from the president’s office, Fuchs said. However, after further discussion with Tharp, they decided the unveiling of the erected Gator would be better suited as a community event.

Fuchs said it’s important not only for students but for faculty and staff to have fun during finals, which tend to bring stress and anxiety toward the end of the semester.

“We hope this whimsical sculpture, with its light shining in the evenings, will add some cheer,” Fuchs wrote in an email. “The sculpture unveiling, the music, and the food should be an enjoyable break from studies.”

The sculpture will be removed from the auditorium’s lawn before UF closes for the holidays, Fuchs said.

Joey Plotkin, a 20-year-old UF sport management junior, said he plans to attend with classmates and be part of what he hopes will become a UF tradition.

“This event will definitely reduce my stress levels with finals coming up,” he said. “I finally will be able to take a step back and just enjoy what’s happening on campus.”