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Student-created sculpture installed in Centennial Hall

May 20, 2014
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Catelyn Mailloux (left) and Pheng Vang (right) with their sculpture, titled "Starlight Heritage," which was installed May 9 in the third floor Lantern area of Centennial Hall.

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From left: Pheng Vang, Catelyn Mailloux and Dr. Gail Scukanec.

EAU CLAIRE — A recently installed student-created sculpture titled "Starlight Heritage" celebrates the long history, the present-day and the future of teacher education at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.


Art students Catelyn Mailloux, a senior sculpture major from St. Cloud, Minnesota, and Pheng Vang, a senior art education major from Eau Claire, along with their mentor, Dan Ingersoll of the art & design department, created the sculpture, which was installed this spring in the third floor Lantern area of Centennial Hall.

"The sculpture is about teacher education at UW-Eau Claire through the passage of time," said Dr. Gail Scukanec, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences, who initiated and commissioned the work as a collaborative faculty-student creative project. "We wanted to celebrate teacher education here at UW-Eau Claire, which started as a normal school educating future teachers back in 1916. What better place to do that than in Centennial Hall, the new home of teacher education at the university. The new building also gave us an opportunity to prominently display the incredible talent of our students, young adults who will be leading us into the next 100 years."

The sculpture, which measures about 12 feet by 12 feet and weighs approximately 600 pounds, is mounted 18 feet off the floor. The daylong installation of the sculpture began with carpenters attaching cleats to the wall to support the work. Next, three 4-foot-by-6-foot predrilled plywood panels were mounted to the wall, followed by the insertion into the panels of steel tubes with glass globes attached at the ends.

The glass globes represent the stars in the night sky over the UW-Eau Claire campus as they were 100 years ago, as they are in the present-day and as they will be 100 years from now, said Mailloux, who graduated May 17 with a bachelor of fine arts degree in sculpture with an art teaching certification. The globes representing each time period have a unique color.

After being selected to work on the project, Mailloux and Vang submitted a concept proposal with five designs for the sculpture. Foster Art Gallery Director Tom Wagener, Scukanec and the students selected a design for the sculpture. The students then worked with Ingersoll to build a quarter-sized model, and then began to construct the piece.

"My role was to help the students bring the exceptionally strong concept they visualized to life," Ingersoll said. "I led them through the discussion and exploration of the materials we would use on the sculpture. The permanent nature of the piece dictated that we use materials that would not deteriorate over time and would require little or no maintenance."

After much discussion, the team decided to use stainless steel, glass, rusted steel, birch plywood, stain and finish to assemble the sculpture. Another consideration when choosing materials was the skill set and tools required to shape the materials to the vision.

"Catelyn brought prior experience working with steel, welding, grinding and forming, while Pheng brought experience working with wood, engineering and a strong math background," Ingersoll said. "Thomas Wagener was also an integral part and constant technical advisor and coordinator for the project."

Others who were instrumental in the completion of the sculpture included Tony Wagener, a local glass artist; students from Eleva-Strum high school's technical education program; and Mike Christopherson, a retired UW-Eau Claire sculpture instructor.

Although the process was long and the amounts of hours put in were many, Mailloux and Vang agree that the opportunity to design a lasting piece of art in the newest building on the UW-Eau Claire campus was worth it.

"Having the opportunity to work alongside Catelyn, not only an amazing artist, but also an amazing person, was an absolute honor," Vang said. "It was also a pleasure to be able to learn from Dan as a teacher and then work beside him as a colleague. He helped us organize our ideas, work effectively and connect with other partners on the project. I think this experience has enriched us all."

The collaborative nature of the project made for an inventive and successful piece, Mailloux said.

"It was a pleasure and a privilege to work with Pheng and Dan," Mailloux said. "It was wonderful to be able to discuss ideas, problem solve and fabricate the piece as a team rather than as an individual. The experience allowed me to learn from two very gifted, thoughtful and wonderful people. I could not have done this project without them and am very grateful for their collaboration."

Art is more often than not a very personal thing and is accomplished by the individual, Ingersoll said. In this case, the size and scope of the project demanded collaboration and the project would not have been realized without it.

"Working with Catelyn and Pheng was truly an honor as they are exceptional students, artists and teachers who possessed both the maturity and work ethic to accomplish the task at hand," Ingersoll said. "Through countless hours of hard work, along with the collaboration of others, their vision has been realized, and the space in the Lantern area in Centennial Hall transformed with an artwork that will enrich the lives of students and all others who use the space for many years to come."

Scukanec applied for and received grants through UW-Eau Claire's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs to pay the students stipends for their work on the project. Additional support for the costs of the project came from the College of Education and Human Sciences, as well as from an ongoing UW-Eau Claire Foundation fundraising campaign, "Bricks for Art," which continues to raise support for art installations in Centennial Hall. More information about "Bricks for Art" is available on the College of Education and Human Sciences website.

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