Student art installations have temporarily transformed a formerly empty city block in downtown Bryan into a public art exhibit for ArtFill, a community art project funded by the National Endowment of the Arts in partnership with the Texas A&M College of Architecture, the Downtown Bryan Association and the city of Bryan.
For the project's May 3 opening, students from the architecture and visualization departments at Texas A&M created art installations in a variety of media, which were erected in 10’ x 10’ x 10’ cubes on an empty lot at North Main and 22nd streets.
ArtFill organizers asked students to fill the space with engaging, yet durable art that can contend with elements, said Rene Graham Lawrence, owner/CEO of LaurelHouse Studio, whose grant application secured NEA funding for the project.
Among the ArtFill installations is a giant billow composed of 20,000 artfully clustered jumbo straws, each inscribed with "a reason to smile." The inspirational, smile-worthy notes were gathered online and at community events throughout the spring 2013 semester by assistant professor Hwaryoung Seo's visualization students, who fashioned them into an organic sculpture that undulates in the wind.
In another ArtFill cube, student-artists fabricated 10’ x 10’ ornamental concrete panels using concrete reinforced with coconut husk fibers.
“There is a great deal of interest in developing the technology for using natural fiber materials in cement composites,” said Gabriel Esquivel, assistant professor of architecture, who designed the two juxtaposed panels with environmental design student Jorge Cruz. “Natural fibers exist in reasonably large quantities all over the world and natural vegetable fibers are produced in most developing countries.”
Molds for the 2,000-pound panels were created at the College of Architecture's Digital Fabrication Facility by Esquivel, Cruz and environmental design students Steven Hewett, Jeff Lemley and Eli Wood. They were cast from concrete donated by the Bryan office of Knife River Corporation and installed with a forklift.
Recycled materials including milk cartons and plastic water bottles are utilized in another ArtFill installation created by students in associate architecture professor Weiling He's spring 2013 studio.
“The art demonstrates the possibility of transforming 'waste' into art and draws the community’s attention to the beauty of weathering,” said He.
The pieces explore variations on work He's students installed on the Langford Architecture Center bridge earlier this year in a project exploring recycled materials’ interaction with natural elements such as shifting sunlight, rain and wind.