UM students’ art to grace Florida city

Published 2:06 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2018

By NANCY WILSTACH / Community Columnist

Art is meant to be experienced by others beyond the artist. Agreed?

Carry that on out and imagine an art student’s work being experienced by tens of thousands of people for decades into the future.

That is what a select group of art students at the University of Montevallo are working toward in their sculpture class under Assistant Professor Tanner Young. They are the fortunate beneficiaries of a decision by the Art in Public Places Board of Bonita Springs, Fla., and a UM alum, Jackie Hauserman. Hauserman just wanted to bring some of her alma mater to her hometown on Florida’s southwestern coast between Naples and Fort Myers.

Young’s group of advanced sculpture students who are working on the project are: Victoria Nichols, a senior from Brierfield; Morgan Capps, junior, Clay-Chalkville and Alabama School of Fine Arts; Christa Kimbrough, senior, Centerpoint; Samantha Keevan, senior, Spanish Fort; Jo Northen, senior, St. Leonard, Md.; and Kohlton Shaffer, senior, Louisville, Texas.

This kind of art, by the way, is not for sissies . . . or weaklings. These kids are welding and cutting huge pieces of metal. They work in the UM 3-D art workshop on the northwest edge of the campus in a studio that looks more like an auto mechanics shop than a place where art happens.

But, happen it does.

The first thing these students do when they report for class is don their welding clothes and their protective gloves and masks. My first visit coincided with Northen’s completing a weld on her project, and, when she pulled off the mask, the area around her eyes and her satisfied smile stood out startlingly pale contrasted with the grimy graycoating her cheeks and chin.

Young explained that the sculptures that the students produce will carry a physical part of the campus that Hauserman recalls, as some of the metal the students are using comes from an old water tower that once stored fresh water for campus use.

“Also, the physical plant workers always think of us and bring us lengths of pipe that they aren’t going to use,” he said, a unique form of recycling.

“There will be six separate sculptures,” he said. “Each one is working on an 8 1/2- to 9-foot display.”

“Definitely a lot of heavy lifting,” noted Capps.

Young said he does not know if all the works will be displayed together in Bonita Springs or if they will be separated, perhaps by plantings or a walkway.

“We are still talking to people about that,” he said. The students are working toward pieces that can stand alone, but that also can form part of a grouping.

He explained that the public sculpture class encompasses more variables than the typical studio art class. Students have to learn about materials and how they are affected by climate and weather, as well as taking into consideration the venue and viewer safety.

The finished sculpture is to go to Bonita Springs for installation in late March 2019.