When the demolition of Gross Hall began in April 2022, many alumni and former residents asked the same question: “What is happening to the artwork?” Gross Hall, in addition to being a bit of a work of art itself in its modern 1969-style, housed several pieces that were well known around campus.

Two large mosaics that once resided in Gross Hall’s main lounge, titled “Cross Section of an Agate” and “Leaves and Branches,” were created by the late Walter Martin BS ’52, who served as professor of art at Concordia-Chicago from 1957 to 1995. The sculpture, “Cross, Chi-Rho, World Globe” from Gross Hall’s exterior was also designed by Martin, and built by Corwin Will, a longtime physical plant employee at the University.kcc-chi-rho.jpg

The mosaics now reside inside Eifrig Hall. “Walt Martin's dynamic mosaics inlay traditional materials such as glass and tiles; however, he pushes his subject matter one step further by incorporating seashells and wood,” says Nikkole Huss, professor of art and curator of the University’s art collection. “Swirls of vibrant leaves and textured branches flow into magnified observations of banded rock formations that simultaneously embrace nature's beauty. As curator, I felt as if the mosaics were made for Eifrig, a complementary backdrop and nod to the late geography professor Herbert Gross.” 

Dr. Herbert Gross, a member of the family for whom Gross Hall was named, was a Concordia faculty member from 1940 to 1976 and one-time editor of the Lutheran Education Journal. His father, 1885 Addison Teachers Seminary graduate John M. Gross, and brothers Arthur and Walter, were dedicated to supporting Lutheran education throughout their lives.

The Chi-Rho sculpture can now be seen on the façade of the Koehneke Community Center (KCC). “Based on Martin's sketches, Corwin Will crafted and installed the metal sculpture on Gross Hall. After undergoing conservation treatments, the sculpture has been repositioned on the front of KCC,” says Huss. “I was guided by former University Pastor Jeff Leininger's suggestion to place the sculpture across from the Chapel of Our Lord. The theme of the 160th academic year is ‘Christ at the Center.’ One of the most common symbols in Christian art is the Chi-Rho, which represents Jesus Christ. Here, Martin has placed Christ front and center as a way to provide strength, peace and truth in an often confusing and chaotic world.”

Next time you’re walking around campus, seek out these beautiful pieces of art in their new settings, standing as symbols of our University’s past, present and future and continuing the legacy of both the artists and the Gross family.

"Leaves and Branches" by Walt Martin BS '52