Louis, one of four Featured Public Projects commissioned for Artprize 8 and named after Louis Campau, the founder of modern Grand Rapids in 1826 will be a pavilion like structure that the viewer can enter. Designed specifically for Vandenberg plaza, a setting that puts my organic formalism– massive in scale but also soft and airy, imposing yet light – into positive dialogue with the iconic modernist aesthetics and architecture of Vandenberg Plaza. From inside, the cell-like structure will frame views of the sky overhead, the surrounding plaza, and Calder’s La Grande Vitesse. As an artist working in the public realm, I am honored to have my work adjacent to Calder’s emblematic sculpture, the first public art work commissioned under the auspices of the then fledgling National Endowment for the Arts in 1969.
Louis builds on the formal and conceptual language established in my 2014 sculpture Odin. Supported by the Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute at Colgate University, software and engineering tools were developed with Daniel Bosia and team at AKT II in London, and refined by Paul Kassabian at SGH. Our original research addressed computational and structural questions from theoretical (mathematical) virtual (digital) and practical (sculptural) perspectives. Rather than using existing digital tools to “solve” a problem, we built our own tools that allowed us to find problems, to generate new forms and new ways of thinking. These new tools allow me to “pack” circles on complex surfaces, simulate the effects of gravity and open up worlds of structural and aesthetic possibility. Without this collaborative process and their digital design and fabrication tools these structures would be otherwise impossible to conceive and fabricate and further, public art itself at root collaborative.
My public projects are inextricably site specific/dependent: the installations emphasize the relational existence of form within the contexts of material, process, public space and collaboration. This includes extensive consultation and skillful negotiations with client, city agencies and public stakeholders. Likewise, the sculpture's conic elements form a community of similar yet distinct, dependent individuals – an aesthetic, structural and material ecosystem. This Kickstarter widens this collaboration, giving your financial support a vital and necessary role in making Louis a reality. My work examines the role arts can play in community and how innovative public art with unusual form in expected and unexpected locations can help us re-experience the familiar and reevaluate our place in the urban environment. I can't think of a better example of the power that art has to engage a community than Artprize and I am very pleased to have my work commissioned for this one of a kind event. The generous award from Artprize and support from my University only covers a fraction of the expenses of my ambitious project, and just as local funding and support was critical to the Calder commission, I appeal to you, and the community, for the additional support to make Louis a reality.
Thanks for letting me share my work with you, please take a moment to visit our Kickstarter, and help fund Louis, a project for Artprize 8, opening September 20, 2016.
Risks and challenges
Every public art project presents opportunities and challenges. Over the past decade and a half I have completed projects across the United States - for museums, sculpture parks and private clients - from the roof of a building in Lexington, Kentucky, to a public park in Sarasota, Florida, to the courtyard of a new development in Seattle, Washington, and a bike and pedestrian path in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
My crew and I have endured extreme temperatures, from 10 below to 110. We have worked in the rain and mud, the snow and cold. We’ve overcome skeptical city employees, equipment failures, late deliveries, and a host of other challenges large and small to complete projects on time and on budget. Every project is different and every project has its surprises, nothing ever goes the same way twice; Which is part of what makes creating public art so much fun.
Successful projects rely on collaboration between artists, architects, engineers, and contractors, as well as skillful negotiations with clients, city agencies, and community stakeholders. Working with Artprize, who commissioned “Louis,” my engineers, and Grand Rapids city agencies, we secured all the permissions and permits needed to erect “Louis” on Calder Plaza. My experience combined with the capable and committed team at Artprize should assure our supporters that Louis will succeed.
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