Wake: UNC Asheville students combine art and engineering.

Wake: UNC Asheville students combine art and engineering.

Hello, my name is Mel Chin. I’m working here with students from the
University of North Carolina at Asheville in the STEAM Studio to create a major installation
for Times Square. The work will be called “Wake.” “Wake” is more of a sculptural commentary
from the past about human relationships to climate, and it will be coupled with a major
work called “Unmoored” that will be in the airspace of Times Square, powered by Microsoft
Corporation’s idea of mixed reality. Together, they’ll make a commentary that
will speak of the major issues of our time—how we are affecting the environment and how we
perceive and take in information. UNC Asheville students are helping to bring
a big vision to the heart of New York. I’m coming from both a background in art
and engineering, so I have a unique position in that where I understand where he’s coming
from and all of the details needing to be exactly right and for the engineering design
to follow the form. So that creates a lot of engineering challenges,
especially when we’re working with this form that is very organic. Structure doesn’t like to be organic. In 30 years in academia, I’ve never actually
experienced a student group that’s learned this much in two semesters. I’ve never watched people work as intensely
as they have. It’s taken over a lot of my conversations
lately because it’s all I’m thinking about. There are big stakes, and I’m very concerned
with rising to the occasion. I’m doing so many things that I’ve not
done before, and I’m working at a scale that I’ve never worked at before. And learning about the actual art world and
how much cooperation it takes to make anything happen. We’ve hit some bumps that we couldn’t
have possibly predicted. There are times when you’re putting up the
sculpture, you’re building something and all of a sudden a problem that was not apparent
is in your face and you have to deal with it on the spot. With all of the challenges that have come
up, everyone’s been real flexible and limber with the whole thing, and understanding that
we’re working on an art project and something that’s never been done before. Just in our campus community, we’ve had
at least 50 folks working on this project, and so to have that many people be adaptable,
be flexible and be able to show up when they need to show up is just phenomenal. People actually are seeing each other here. There’s a lot of beauty here in the exchanges
that people have. There’s a lot of growth. People are holding each other in ways here
because it’s a stressful environment, but it’s also an inspiring project. It reminds me what community can look like,
and it reminds me that people can come together behind a common cause and make incredible
things happen. I think people are going to go to Times Square
expecting to see the usual, and instead they’re going to be confronted by history. They’re going to be confronted by environmental
troubles. They’re going to be confronted by their
size—the size of the individual. That’s something that I’ve been confronted
with on the daily with this project. That, yeah, I’m a small person, especially
in comparison to this physically 22 feet-tall statue, but at the same time, I’m small in comparison
to the amount of strife and the amount of beautiful things that are happening in the
world. Hopefully people in Times Square will have
that same feeling when they see the project. If we can realize this, if we can make this,
then we can do just about anything.

2 thoughts on “Wake: UNC Asheville students combine art and engineering.

  1. This is absolutely inspirational! Talk about teaching innovation and the flexibility needed to keep up with the growth in our society. Thank you for sharing!

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