One of the great things about steel is that it is a perfect material for outdoor public sculpture. And one of the great things about outdoor public sculpture is that it can teach students the benefits of civic engagement. By working with community businesses and groups, students in my sculpture classes can get involved in sharing their talents and abilities with the community by providing artwork in places that need some aesthetic help. They get to know each potential client and after doing a little research on the location and possible audience, they may even learn some empathy and compassion. Without doubt, contributing in a positive manner to their community helps them to be better humans.
This semester we had several public art projects going at the same time. A wonderful lady at the Beckman Mental Health Clinic contacted me and asked if we'd be interested in designing something for one of their entrances. My advanced sculpture class put together digital public art proposals and submitted them to the administration for approval. The folks at Beckman liked the ideas so much they decided to choose two sculptures, one for each entrance and they even uprooted some nice landscaping to make room. Sean and Candice were the lucky ones to have their designs chosen. I was told that the decisions came down to the designs that looked the best and that had very positive meanings communicated in the artist statements.
So with the approvals, they got started doing the difficult work of creating large scale outdoor sculptures out of steel.
Meanwhile, Ashley was asked to create a proposal for a comic shop in Spartanburg called The Tangled Web. The store is owned by my brother and he casually asked one day when we were going to make something for him. I put Ashley on the job and she submitted a proposal for a 3D sign made out of steel. That's her up there welding the sign together.
Candice spent weeks leaning over two sheets of steel, first with a plasma torch and then with a grinder. She cut out ornate butterfly wings, then welded them both to a central body before using her painting skills to finish it up. And if you're wondering, we had a long discussion in the proposal stage about whether or not it was ok for her to make a butterfly. While I'm personally not a fan, I explained the proposal was not for me and I was not the audience she needed to consider. The idea of transformation happened to work quite well for a mental health clinic.
After about a month and a half of cutting, bending, grinding and painting, we loaded the trailer last Tuesday and began installation. Sean is a champion hole digger. He barely broke a sweat digging the 36" hole for the steel anchor.
After spending all afternoon installing the two outdoor pieces, we drove to Sparkle City to install Ashley's wall hung sculpture. Mounting it over the comic shelves was not easy but after a little touch up paint it was finished. No paint on the carpet, and no paint on the comics.
I'm not sure why Ashley is holding the hole diggers in this photo. I'm pretty sure she was playing. The hole was already finished at this point and the anchor was being bolted on. Candice and Devin are holding the sculpture in place.
Here's the whole group after Sean's was finished. That's Katie (who was not in the class, but she's a really good friend to Sean and Ashley and she knows that sculptors know how to have fun), Devin, Sean, KJ, Ashley, Shawny and Candice left to right.
When this photo was taken, Tuesday night around 8 pm, Ashley was officially finished with her last sculpture class and was all set to graduate 4 days later. I think that's her face of relief/happiness/fear of the real world.
This is Candice being proud of her butterfly. Candice had never worked with steel before. In a month and a half she learned to weld, bend steel, use a plasma torch, engineer a permanent sculpture and how to use loud music through headphones to protect her ears from the grinder noise.
And Sean's finished sculpture titled "Reach". It's interesting to think that every visitor to the clinic will have to walk by this sculpture to get to the entrance. It's certainly going to get more views than a sculpture in a gallery.
These students did a great job this semester and we've already got a big project ready to start with the spring class in January.