Of all the hidden gems at Unity Village I have looked forward to covering for this column, an interactive bronze sculpture kept calling out to me to discover its origin story. I remember seeing it for the first time on one of my earliest campus visits—long before interning with this magazine or working in the bookstore or becoming a professional writer and regular contributor. And as always, the story is even more intriguing than I’d hoped.
A World of Unity was commissioned by an anonymous donor and sculpted by Maria (pronounced “Mariah”) J. Kirby-Smith, an artist based in South Carolina. She has described it as being like a giant Fabergé egg—a gift that the viewer is invited to open.
Crafted out of bronze and hinged on both sides, the 33-inch globe features raised reliefs of all the continents (and a gold star to mark the home of Unity). It opens to reveal three scenes of figures interacting with each other, with nature, and with craft.
The scenes are meant to represent the stages of creative endeavor—dreaming, nurturing, and creating—and the central panel includes the words, “In a world of Unity there is no separation. There is a synergy of hands and hearts.” Handles are sculpted right into the piece, allowing viewers to open and close the globe themselves.
A World of Unity was dedicated on September 12, 1996, which also marked the third annual Unity World Day of Prayer celebration.
“The sculpture is a visual metaphor,” Kirby-Smith said in a statement at the dedication. “In any endeavor there is an unfolding, a growing from seed to fullness of fruit.”
Originally placed in the lobby of the Activities Center—beneath flags of 184 countries of the world—it is now located in the lobby of the 200 Building, where the Unity Prayer Ministry (Silent Unity®) is headquartered.
Moving it is no small feat: Weighing in at more than 600 pounds, the bronze sculpture requires more than just a second pair of hands to relocate. In addition to its mass, it must also be lifted some six feet in the air in order to set it back on its granite base. But the effect is worth the extra effort: It is a beautiful piece to behold (and to examine up close).
“I see us all as people, as children of God,” the donor wrote in a statement on their own vision for the piece, “all with challenges, emotions, desires, and needs. My vision leads me to believe that if we would all focus on the similarities we share and the basic true nature within us, we would all treat each other better.”
This article appeared in Unity Magazine.