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Arts and Architecture

Colorful Collaboration

Twenty-eight students in Arts Professor Larry Kagan’s Advanced Sculpture class and Clinical Associate Professor of Architecture Michael Oatman’s Extreme Drawing class spent the spring semester collaborating on a public art project that was installed on campus this May.

Called “Grassland,” the installation features 375 six-foot-tall bi-color cloth “blades of grass” that will stay up for the duration of the summer as a visible representation of the connection between Rensselaer’s Arts Department in West Hall and the forthcoming Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC).

The final project was chosen from preliminary proposals developed by four interdisciplinary student teams that focused on broad themes of the classical elements earth, air, fire, and water.

The class itself was a “real experiment,” according to Oatman, who noted that this was the first major cooperative effort between an art and architecture class in many years.

“Collaboration is wonderful in theory, but often challenging in practice. The students took risks and there were hundreds of ideas kicked around, and we got a strong final result,” he says.

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At Rensselaer
* Photo by Kris Qua *
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Called “Grassland,” the installation features 375 cloth “blades of grass” that will stay up for the duration of the summer as a visible representation of the connection between the Arts Department and the forthcoming EMPAC.
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The group worked closely with Mark Frost, director of Rensselaer’s Physical Plant, to present potential ideas and discuss their viability on campus.

The installation will remain on campus until Sept. 15 and because the multi-colored cloth posts were placed so close in proximity, only the perimeter of the installation will be mowed during the summer months. Oatman says the students hope that over time, the colored blades of grass will appear to emerge out of a “haze” of natural grass.

“Grassland” was funded by the Jaffe Fund for Experimental Media and Performing Arts, and commissioned by EMPAC.

“[EMPAC Director] Johannes Goebel and his staff have worked hard to make EMPAC a presence on campus and in Troy — even before the building is finished. This installation is an extension of that logic,” says Oatman.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2007 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.