Campus News

UK alum receives CODAaward for Cornerstone media wall artwork

Helene Steene's piece, Moon Sentinel.
Helene Steene's piece, "Moon Sentinel."

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 12, 2022) — University of Kentucky art alumna Helene Steene, in collaboration with the University of Kentucky, was recently awarded the 2022 Collaboration of Design + Art (CODA)award in the education category for the piece "Moon Sentinel."

CODA recognizes outstanding projects that integrate commissioned art into interior, architectural or public spaces. The 10th annual international design competition announced winners across 10 categories as well as two People’s Choice Award winners. 

“To receive the CODAaward is a great honor, as artists from around the world are considered for this competition," Steene said.

This year’s 406 CODAaward entries represent over $94 million in commission fees. A jury of 18 esteemed members of the design, architecture and art worlds evaluated each entry on three unique criteria across 10 categories: 

  • The integration of commissioned artwork into site-specific projects, completed since January 2019.
  • The strength of the collaborative process among the creative teams, commissioners and industry resources.
  • The art and design seamlessly blend to create a place as art, rather than a place with art.

Steene’s piece, "Moon Sentinel," was also recognized in The Cornerstone’s inaugural call for art. The call for art focused on two themes: Black Lives in the Bluegrass and Kentucky Confronting COVID-19.

“The 'Moon Sentinel' was a painting I already had painted, and the inspiration for that is obviously my fascination with the moon,” Steene said. “In this case the 'metal doors' stay guard so that the moon belongs to EVERYONE, not just some. Hence, the piece made sense to me for the Black Lives Matter focus, as the moon is there for everyone on this planet.

"To see my 7-foot-tall painting enlarged to 55 feet at The Cornerstone, was a great thrill. I’m grateful that UK had the technical skills to do something that I myself never could have achieved. It’s wonderful when classical painting skills can be combined with modern tech skills like this LED installation.”

Since the competition included not only the piece itself, but the format and location of its display, both Melody Flowers, executive director for strategic analysis and policy, and Chelsea Brislin, associate director for the Gaines Center for the Humanities, were listed as collaborators on the project, making this not only an incredible honor for Steene, but also a win for UK and the recently constructed Cornerstone.

“This recognition really speaks to the importance of public art — which has a way of meeting audiences where they are and transcending the social barriers that can sometimes exist between the public and galleries/museums,” Brislin said. “I’m absolutely thrilled that the legacy of the inaugural Cornerstone competition continues to grow and be recognized on a national scale. I know it will only help as we continue to experiment with new and exciting ways to engage with local creators.”

Serving as a multifaceted, multipurpose space, The Cornerstone is where ingenuity and creativity unfold. Completed in 2020, the idea behind the building was to leverage the open-format space and use of technology to maximize student success, enhance a sense of community, bring together the university and community to foster outcome- and solution-driven thinking and design, connect people with different passions and interests and provide new pathways for career development in the entrepreneurial fields.

“Public art is an essential element in building and supporting an ecosystem of creativity, which in turn is key to innovation, entrepreneurship and connections,” Flowers said. “The Cornerstone was designed to be a space where all of that comes together.”

"Moon Sentinel" will be displayed on The Cornerstone media wall throughout the month of September.

To learn more about "Moon Sentinel," click here. For more information on The Cornerstone, visit

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.