Members of the campus community may have noticed some new public art around campus, most visibly the archway just southwest of the Library. The creations – 18 in all – are the final student projects for Matt Allison’s 3-D Design class and will remain on display through the end of Winter quarter’s finals week.
Pieces include an outdoor chessboard at the lower south entrance to the PUB, clouds floating through the staircase leading up to the SLC, toxic rubber duckies in the rock river, and a jellyfish swaying from a tree outside the theater building, among others.
Students were tasked with creating a piece that was site specific and weatherproof (if the piece was intended to live outside). Students were allowed to construct projects out of any materials desired and were encouraged to think big.
Kat Chandler, the creator of the aforementioned archway, took the challenge to think big to heart. “I volunteer for a regional Burning Man group,” Chandler said, “and have helped create a lot of their pieces but have never done a personal project on this large of a scale. I was excited to be able to branch out a bit.”
The pieces demonstrate a culmination of all the design concepts the students have learned throughout the quarter. For example, despite its large size, Chandler’s piece was constructed to be portable. She also emphasized safety in her plans, with special attention paid to anchoring and secure construction. Inspired by her work with Burning Man, the dome atop the archway is designed to mimic a helix zome, with the center representing a flower of life fractal pattern.
The most important parameter of the projects, according to Allison, was that they be site-specific. “In thinking about this project,” said Allison, “students were charged with looking for a space that needed beauty or deeper expression and then bringing art into that space to create for the public an awareness of the environment that they wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.”
For inspiration for their pieces, the class took a field trip to the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park. Students then had to pitch a proposal for their project.
“We live in a visual world now and art is teaching a visual language,” said Allison, “so 3-D Design and any other art class is important because those classes are about creating visually literate citizens. Part of the outcomes of any class in the Visual Arts Center is that students learn to read and speak that language, and presenting public art is a nice way to start communication about it with the public.”
Part of that communication is in inviting the public to view the art with a critical eye. “We do our best to teach both technical skills and conceptual ideas,” said Allison, “but students bring their own facilities and language and it’s important for the public to engage with the art in a manner that gets them thinking about what is good art.”
Though the pieces will be taken down at the end of Winter quarter, more will come in the future. “Keep an eye out,” said Allison. “It’s not my desire to present art that becomes stale or is designed to be permanent, so for the foreseeable future each new class will be presenting their own take on public art for the campus community to enjoy.”