During this year’s 27th annual ArtsWeek, Indiana University and the City of Bloomington are showcasing the theme “ArtsTeach.” One of the week’s flagship events is TAG!, an installation created by Edgewood High School students in tandem with collaborative artist Joe LaMantia.
Mounted in late January, the magnetic mosaic will temporarily adorn the façade of the Twin Lakes Recreation Center on Bloomington’s west side.
Piecework And The Big Picture
Students in Angela O’Malley’s 3D Art class and Brian Talbert’s 2D class at the Ellettsville High School contributed to the project at various points along the creative process, from design to fabrication to installation.
Although some did see the project all the way through, maintaining their continuous interest wasn’t LaMantia’s mission. The artist explains that his goal is much simpler: “My intention was to get them to participate.”
In proposing the project to the students, LaMantia kept the parameters broad: The design should reflect the students’ academic subjects. The medium would be a flexible magnetic material to which the colored vinyl could be affixed; the site would be the façade of the barn-like rec center, with its large octagonal window.
To Put A Fine Point On It
In the process of brainstorming the mural’s content, the students came up with at least ten icons they wanted to incorporate. “They really wanted to include Einstein’s face,” LaMantia remembers with a laugh.
Ultimately, three symbols were chosen: the pencil, the mathematical compass and the double-helix structure of DNA. The figures were arranged around the octagonal window, while leftover materials formed a galaxy of numerals, musical notes and geometric shapes around the primary motifs.
The Art-Science Link
That science and art share the common root of imagination wasn’t lost on TJ Price, the student who drafted the symbols. “Somebody had to conceptualize what an atom looks like, or DNA,” Price suggests. “And that uses art, because you have to design what it looks like for people to understand. You take something that no one’s ever seen before and blow it up to what you can actually see.”
The fact that many people in the community will actually see results of the students’ long process is one of the project’s key benefits, according to Edgewood art teacher Angela O’Malley.
“Any time that high school students have a chance to create something concrete and visible to the community at large is good for both them and the community,” O’Malley asserts. “I think that students tend to think of themselves as powerless, and so anything that lets them know that they can do things that matter is positive.”
No matter how engaged or disengaged a student might have been, LaMantia believes that merely participating in a project that will take on a life of its own in the public sphere can help meet the basic human need for connection.
“To have that sense of participating, just the fact that you were there when it was done, and you were part of it,” LaMantia concludes, “that’s all we can do as human beings: be part of something, instead of being separate.”