Each spring we host the Sculpture Deathmatch in the sculpture studios at Lander University. It is the biggest sculpture event of the year. What exactly is it? Two teams of sculptors go head to head in a 12 hour sculpture competition. At 9:00am on a Saturday morning, the teams get their instructions for the contest. Each team has exactly 12 hours to design, create and install a public sculpture on campus. For those of you who are not public sculptors, this is nearly an impossible task. And yet, each spring my people pull it off.
This year I solicited volunteers for the event. I sent a mass email to the entire department and developed a list of participants. After all schedules were checked and a couple of people dropped out and a couple of non-email checkers signed up late, I considered my list. The list was easily divided between students primarily interested in graphic design and students primarily interested in sculpture. So it was set, "Sculptors vs Graphic Designers".
The official instructions for the day.
Marketing. I still abhor the Facebooks and I'll never have one. Instagram is my only real social network friend. But I did sent out some emails to local high school teachers. We had some visitors and our department turned out in mass to support our crazy day.
The official Sculpture Deathmatch flag sewn by G several years ago. The team members from each winning team get to sign their name to the flag.
Team Sculpture got a big, heavy concrete cast piece to use.
The brainstorming started immediately after the coin toss and it was fun to see the different approaches between sculptors and designers. Team Sculpture ran and grabbed a bunch of found objects from the scrap pile and drew inspiration from the textures and forms.
Team Graphic Design neatly took a large piece of paper and sat down calmly to sketch ideas and compare.
The before photo.
Team Graphic Design (blue bandanas) featuring Lindsay, 'Shaad, Jamaica and Ricardo
Team Sculpture (red bandanas) featuring Chelsea, Luke, Molly, McCaylah, Alana and Sabrina.
Fun tidbit: Luke doesn't love technology. Apparently at some point we talked about his interest in the Deathmatch but since he didn't respond officially I had no idea he was coming. At 8:55 he cruised into the studio to everyone's surprise. We had an extra shirt in his size so we gave him a bandana and he suited up. Luke was officially a Graphic Design emphasis student but he's also one of my best sculptors. Putting him on Team Graphic Design would have made the teams even but since we were deciding all this on the fly, I let him choose his team. He told us that while he was technically a graphic designer, he identified as a sculptor. His designer friends protested but he walked away and became a sculptor for the day. I love Luke. He's hilarious.
Team Sculpture changed their plan several times as they looked over their scraps. They had locked in on circles and spheres early on but their design and concept continued to morph all morning. They did a good job keeping their design strengths and eliminating the weaker elements.
For me each Deathmatch is different. Some years I'm running around like a crazy person all day with people yelling my name every few seconds. Some years after we get started, I'm not needed until they start to run out of food. This year was a mix. During the less active times I stuffed doughnuts in my face and took photos. We tried to keep the department instagram updated all day and I tried to take selfies with people while they worked. This one is with Lindsay welding.
Chelsea making a face.
Molly being Molly.
Ricardo and Rashaad being tough.
Sabrina giving the death stare.
Alana and McCaylah making spheres from scraps.
Luke identifying as a sculptor.
Team Graphic Design progressed like a well oiled machine. They combined elements from their sketches into one design. It was, of course, neat and clean. But it required a lot of difficult and time intensive work. I always tell them that hollow forms in steel take a lot longer than they expect, but no one ever listens. I yelled at Rashaad at this moment to put on a welding jacket.
Our students are so well rounded. Ricardo is one of our best graphic designers but here he is showing off his welding skills. He's also showing Rashaad how to properly wear a protective welding jacket.
During the middle of the day both teams were working at an easy pace. They both thought they had all their problems worked out and that they would finish in plenty of time. They even thought we might get out early. Team Sculpture chose their location and sent out a team of installers in the mid afternoon to prepare their spot.
Meanwhile, back in the studio, Ricardo and Lindsay were still solving problems.
And a couple of hours later, Rashaad was still working on that hollow form.
The sun sank lower and lower and both teams kept working. Team Sculpture had their hole dug and site prepared but they had not finished their sculpture. Some last minute strengthening items were added. Some other elements were eliminated. Darkness closed in.
With about an hour to go, Team Sculpture loaded their sculpture on a truck and slowly started transporting it to the site.
Team Graphic Design scrambled to get their sculpture ready to transport. This one was going to be close. The form was finished but they still had to add those pesky bottle tops.
With about 20 minutes to go before the deadline, Team Sculpture installed their sculpture with the help of some truck headlights.
Then everyone came together to watch Team Graphic Design finish up. Team Sculpture provided the headlights and a couple of iPhone flashlights. The seconds ticked down and everyone counted down to 9:00pm. With one second to spare, Team Graphic Design finished.
The reward for a long day of tough work is a late dinner. We packed into the local Chili's to celebrate and wind down.
Monday morning gave me the first clear view of each sculpture. Team Graphic Design's sculpture is above. Each was documented and this year we held the voting on Instagram.
Using Instagram allowed anyone in the world to vote and we had at least 3 times more votes than we've ever had. We had votes from New Zealand, Mexico and all over the US.
It took a while to count the votes but Team Sculpture received the most votes and most importantly, they didn't lose bragging rights to Team Graphic Design. Team Sculpture's entry is above.
I'm always amazed that students are willing to give up a Saturday to do the Deathmatch. Some get off work, some cancel travel plans and all of them get up early and work hard. We really do have the best students in the world.