CHANCELL-ING: Year of the Eggheads

Eye on Mrak Egghead
UC Davis is marking 30 years since the installation of the final Egghead with a yearlong celebration. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Everyone who visits the UC Davis campus can’t help but notice the Eggheads. Seven of these sculptures are installed among five spots, such as the beloved “Bookhead” next to Shields Library and the upside-down “Eye on Mrak (Fatal Laff)” near our central administration building.

These iconic Eggheads have taken on a life of their own since their debut. They endure as a signature place where students take photographs to commemorate key moments in their college journeys, including graduation. During finals week, you’ll also find students carrying on the Aggie tradition of rubbing “Bookhead” for good luck. They also remain a popular selfie spot for visitors on Picnic Day, The Whole Earth Festival and whenever school kids are on campus for field trips.

Blue graphic of Chancellor Gary S. May with text: Gary May Chancell-ing. A town-gown newspaper column.

This Egghead Series was created by the late Robert Arneson, a UC Davis art professor for 29 years and pioneering faculty in our Department of Art and Art History. Starting this month, we are celebrating 30 years since these Eggheads were first installed on campus. We’re dedicating 2024 as the Year of the Eggheads to recognize Arneson’s legacy and honor these defining elements of UC Davis’ character.

This collective installation is a humorous wink at university intellectuals, with the slang term “egghead” at the core of the joke. I’m OK with that.

Over the years, the Eggheads have come to represent the kind of unconventional yet innovative thinking that abounds at UC Davis. Their presence drives the point home that we're serious about all we do, but we're also comfortable with being a little quirky or unorthodox.

We celebrate the Eggheads as iconic public art on a campus that excels at its mission of teaching, research and public service. They are sites for learning, where visitors and campus community members can discover more about each Egghead and reflect on their experience on campus.

The Eggheads also remind us of UC Davis’ longstanding commitment to the fine arts and liberal arts studies. That was made evident to me in the most recent episode of “That May Be the Chancellor,” where I learned more about arts programs on campus from students and faculty.

Our artistic spirit is kept alive at the Gorman Museum of Native American Art, which re-opened in an expanded space last September. The museum is among the best of its kind, with a collection of 2,250 works of art that include paintings, ceramics and textiles among other media.

The Manetti Shrem Museum flourishes with three current exhibitions showing art by UC Davis professors and alumni, and as a learning space that provides hands-on experience for students. In April, a special lobby display of Arneson’s early clay models will be on view and visible from the plaza, along with a visual gallery of Aggies’ photos with the Eggheads.  

The celebration goes on

Picnic Day on April 20 will be the perfect time to explore the Eggheads and the artistry that shines across campus. Along with open houses at our museums and art spaces, you’ll find a new line of Egghead-themed apparel and merchandise at UC Davis’ Campus Store and Downtown Store, and at the Manetti Shrem Museum.

The Museum Collection Pop-Up Shop features artistic collectibles, accessories, hats, home goods, jewelry — even a neon Egghead. At four UC Davis Store locations, you can find iconic-yet-affordable apparel and gear that’s perfect for Picnic Day or any day. See it all from the Shop page of the new website, where you can also discover Egghead origin stories and fresh opportunities for engaging the arts at UC Davis.

More Eggheads-related events and products will be announced throughout the year. You can stay in the loop by signing up for e-mail updates.

LeShelle and I encourage you to enjoy the Eggheads and our proud UC Davis traditions. Have a wonderful Picnic Day!

Chancellor Gary S. May’s monthly column is published in The Davis Enterprise and Dateline UC Davis.

Primary Category

Secondary Categories