Three Allegories of Learning; Making Sense, 2007

Steve Gardner
(American, born 1968)

Location: Yakima Valley College, Yakima, WA 98902


Artist Steve Gardner's terracotta relief sculptures are based on the three allegories of learning: "El Abrecaminos," "The Torch," and "The Garden."

"El Abrecaminos" (center) translates to "one who opens the way, one who makes way where there is no way." This idea relates to the many Mexican immigrants who have come to the Yakima Valley to open a way for themselves and their children – but also to all the college students who are paving the way to their future.

"The Torch" (left) and "The Garden" (right) are based on myths and metaphors about the importance of knowledge, growth, risk, patience, and self-initiative. All three sculptures feature the Yakima landscape of Central Washington.

The artwork includes twenty-four cast glass panels on the nearby exterior windows. They feature formulas, quotes, and images that the artist developed with the Yakima Valley College instructors, related to the various disciplines taught at the college. The glass panels also include patterns from nature in the Yakima Valley such as Ponderosa pine bark and basalt rock textures.

This artwork was acquired for the State Art Collection in partnership with Yakima Valley Community College.


Seattle-based artist Steve Gardner creates relief and free-standing sculptures out of architectural terra cotta clay and other materials. His artworks often focus on the human figure, surface pattern, and a sense of story.
Gardner received his Bachelor of Arts degree in art and biology from St. Olaf College in Minnesota and his Master of Fine Arts degree in ceramics from Central Washington University in Ellensburg.

Material CategorySculpture - glass
MediumTerracotta, cast glass, and stainless steel
Dimensions45 in x 45 in x 3 in (central panel)
ID NumberWSAC2004.050.000
Acquisition MethodSite responsive commission
Artist LocationWashington, United States
Location Information
AgencyYakima Valley College
Artwork LocationYakima Valley College
Glenn Anthon Building, Grand stairwell and railings
WA CountyYakima
Site TypeCollege
AddressWest Nob Hill Blvd. & South 16th Ave.
Geo. Coordinates46.587382, -120.529090
Before VisitingSome artworks may be located in areas not accessible to the general public (especially in K-12 public schools). Consider contacting the site prior to a visit to ensure access.