University of South Florida

College of The Arts

University of South Florida

Celebrating the life and cultural contributions of artist and educator Joe Testa-Secca

The University of South Florida celebrates the life and cultural contributions of artist and educator Joe Testa-Secca (1928-2023). A Tampa native, Testa-Secca was an important and influential leader in establishing and supporting contemporary arts in the region. Testa-Secca’s artistic career spanned 60 years, including his over 30-year tenure at the University of Tampa, where he was awarded one of the university’s highest honors, a Dana Professorship, served as Chair of the Art Department, and co-founded the University of Tampa’s Scarfone/Hartley Gallery, one of the first spaces in the city dedicated to exhibiting contemporary art. Upon retirement from UT in 1995, Testa-Secca was recognized as Professor Emeritus.

In addition to his inspiring role as an arts educator, Testa-Secca’s creative practice included private and public commissions resulting in pioneering and permanent public art installations across the city. USF is proud to have commissioned Testa-Secca’s first public artworks, Forum I and Forum II. These works were the earliest public artworks acquired by the Tampa campus in 1960 and were pivotal in establishing the university’s public art collection.

Integrated into the architectural surfaces of the buildings, the vibrant mosaics of Forum I add color and depth to the entrance of the John and Grace Allen building while the bas-relief forms and texture present in Forum II envelope the exterior walls of the Chemistry auditorium. Both works incorporate abstract forms referencing a forum to describe the nature of a university setting where parties come together to exchange dialogue and ideas, advance theories, and educate students to expand knowledge in the world. In an interview as part of the USF 50th Anniversary Oral History Project, Testa-Secca documented his USF public art commissions and collaboration with Sarasota school architect Mark Hampton with Puller, Bone, and Watson architecture firm, who designed a number of the first buildings on the Tampa campus.

Testa-Secca’s significant artistic career was highlighted in a 2019 retrospective exhibition, Modernism Reimagined, at the University of Tampa’s Scarfone/Hartley Gallery. His artworks are in the permanent collections in Tampa, Jacksonville, Polk County, and The Leppa-Rattner Museum of Art, among others. Locally, Testa-Secca’s works are publicly displayed at the John F. Germany Public Library and the Robert W. Saunders Public Library. Recently three stained glass panels he created in 1962 for St. Anthony’s Chapel at Tampa’s Jesuit High School, removed during a renovation, have found new life at Casa Santo Stefano in Ybor City.

USF values and commemorates Testa-Secca’s contributions to the public art collection. As part of USF’s recognition of the role of public art in enhancing the experience across all the USF campuses, USF President Rhea Law recently established a new fund to support the care and advancement of the university’s public art collection. More information about this fund can be found here.

Additional information about the USF Public Art program can be located here.

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