Designing, Fabricating and Installing a Public Sculpture with Kids
Paper maquette, synthesizing the group of kids' ideas
During the school year of 2014-15, I worked with a great group of kids with the Telling It program, the brainchild of Professor Deb Gordon Gurfinkel, of the U of Michigan School of Social Work. Telling It helps build literacy in at-risk kids through its methodology of games, theater, literature, writing and art. I'm the lucky artist who got to work with the kids in a year-long process of designing, building maquettes, building the real thing and, finally installing a large-scale steel sculpture at the apartment grounds where the kids live.
Mat board maquette and welded parts from the sculpture
The kids learned how to use a variety of hand tools over the course of the year and how to work with a variety of materials. They got to go to Makerworks, a maker space in Ann Arbor, to watch the plasma cutter and laser cutter work.
Plasma cutter cutting steel, computer driven
Me, welding parts together.
First part of the sculpture set in place.
I made the piece in modular parts so that the kids could have as much involvement in the final process as possible. This piece is a major structural component, providing stability and a cool arch to be crawled underneath.
In the design process, we talked about the importance of creating a piece that would be interesting from all angles.....in the round.
Also, we talked about the prominent feature at the kids' homes - a huge tree in the common area. It was part of our inspiration!
The kids got to use wrenches and ratchets to tighten down the nuts. They loved using the tools, just like I did when I was a kid and learned! So fun to see the light in their eyes!
The mentors guided the kids through a naming process for the sculpture and the kids came up with "Roots Taking Flight". I laser-etched a name plate that got installed with all the kids' names on it as well.