USF Sun Dome Dazzles With Artistic Expression

The recently renovated USF Sun Dome is a focal point for USF athletics, concerts and events, and offers more than a typical venue.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Video by Katy Hennig | USF News

By Katy Hennig

     USF News

Tampa, Fla. (Oct. 3, 2014) - Since the grand re-opening in 2012, the USF Sun Dome has been jamming with musical acts, ranging from Sir Elton John to the Lumineers, providing a unique experience for fans and performers.

“The Sun Dome was built in 1980-1981, so from that standpoint it’s an older building,” said Trent Merritt, general manager of the Sun Dome. “Through the years the building started to show signs of age and the renovation that took place in 2011-2012 was much needed and has been amazingly well received.”

The 25-year old building received a rejuvenating overhaul, with almost every inch of the interior being replaced or updated. The unique nature of the venue offers a platform for creative expression of all types and an idea to document the performances has led to a special hidden characteristic that many don’t know about yet.

“There’s a lot of room to paint, it’s definitely the biggest canvas I’ve worked on, “ said painter Sam Newton, a graduate of USF’s College of the Arts. Newton was commissioned by Global Spectrum to paint a mural, backstage in the Sun Dome, to archive the performers visits. “People are surprised when they walk in,” through the dressing room hallway, said Newton. “It’s like a secret.”

According to Merritt, the project began with an idea to create something unique and memorable for performers visiting the Sun Dome. “The vision was how can we show our artistic expression as an arena, you think well its an arena, its cement and steel, its not art.” said Merritt.

The project was designed in collaboration with the USF community to incorporate students’ artwork, so the audition went out in 2012 to all USF art students. After commissioning Newton for the job, the area became a canvas for elaborate artistic expression and celebration of music and events.

The opportunity has brought new experience for Newton, working on a scale much larger than she’s worked with before, incorporating new techniques with acrylic paint. Newton says she’s grown and evolved as a painter while working on the mural, which has spanned over two years. “Painting is what I’ve always loved to do, so it seemed natural to pursue a degree in it and hopefully afterwards, pursue a Master's,” said Newton.

The process for creating the individual pieces that are woven together to form the mural is methodical and extensive. Newton begins with a photograph or a flier from a performance and blends them into her own creation. “Usually I start, I’m given an image or a flier and I know the performer that’s going into the allotted space. Then I will put in a background color, because the acrylic paint needs more than one coat so it can cover up the brick. It really depends, but I work directly in paint I don’t draw on the walls or anything, I start doing the outline and building color. Normally I would be doing lots of layers but acrylic is really flat as compared to oil or something like that,” Newton explained.

The shows all have special qualities and aspects that Newton is pleased with, but a few rise above the rest. “I really liked working on the Wiz Kalifa one, just because his show is purple and there was a lot of purple and that’s my favorite color. Also, he had a really great photo where he had wings, and the flier had an astronaut, so it was fun.”

Newton admits she has seen improvement in her work and prefers the more recent creations. “I’m kind of more partial to the new ones that I’ve done, just because I’ve gotten a little more into using acrylic. I really like the Harlem Globe Trotters one and I really like the Lumineers that I just did. I like working really tiny too, so lots of detail."

Impeccable detail, artistic expression and talent have all come together to create a magical work of art.

Merritt and the Global Spectrum staff have all been admiring the colorful collage created by Newton, watching it blossom into more than they ever expected. “You always have a vision and that’s why you put a plan into place and in your mind you want to see that vision come out perfectly,” said Merritt. “To actually see the paint go on the wall and to see her artistic ability, it’s been great and I think really it's exceeded expectations. We’re just thrilled to continue to see where it goes.”

The USF Sun Dome is the home of USF Men's Basketball, USF Women's Basketball and USF Volleyball teams and was recently named one of the best venues in the state, by Venues Today magazine.

View a slideshow of USF athletics, concerts and events at the USF Sun Dome throughout 2012-2014.