U. of Maryland Art and Architecture Students Spruce Up Long Branch

Over the last twenty years public art has changed, evolving toward a hybrid art form that is part public engagement, part architectural extension, and part fine art.  New materials and especially new media have expanded the possibilities for artists.  Temporary public art has also grown in popularity: it is expedient, inexpensive, experimental, and often can do as much to activate a space, or at least draw attention to it, as a more permanent piece.

The University of Maryland is doing exactly what we need to do in Montgomery County to further the conversation about public art.   Architecture Professor Ronit Eisenbach and Sculpture Professor John Ruppert have teamed up to lead an exciting design initiative for a mix of architecture and fine art students.  This past semester 16 students designed and fabricated several installations for Silver Spring’s Long Branch Library and near-by Flower Hill Park.   Using ingenuity and recycled materials, students have  added whimsy, color, form and even sound to grab our attention and reframe our surroundings. Among them is In Plane Sight by Matthew Miller, Stephen Neuhauser, and Kristen Yeung.  Here designers employ strands of intersecting colored thread, reminiscent of early Sol LeWitt, to give vectors form, connecting the Long Branch Library upper plaza to the lower garden.  In another project, Nicole Hinkle, Alison Boliek and Carolina Uechi have used plastic zip ties to create a lush tropical garden in the unused flowerbed bordering the plaza.  Other installations frame stairways, serve as gateways, or provide a partial shelter that transmits light through clustered plastic bottles, punctuated with the bright color accents of bottle caps.

The project also has a serious side. As Eisenbach explains, “The larger scope of this project is community engagement; to examine how, with different types of art interventions, we can help to stimulate dialogue about the future of a place with those who live there.”

Just installed on May 5th the work will be up along Flower Avenue and the library grounds through May 20th. On Saturday, May 11th from 2-5 there will be community festival on the library grounds, featuring music, food, kids’ activities and art.  Come visit and leave us your opinion about public art. What do you like?  What would you create if you had the chance?

For more information go to http://www.arch.umd.edu/news_and_events/index.cfm?id=8001

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Michele Cohen, Ph.D., is a consultant for the Public Arts Trust at AHCMC. Dr. Cohen has over 25 years experience as an administrator, writer, curator, and professor in the field of public art. She served as the founding Director of New York City’s Public Art for Public Schools program, managing a collection inventory, extensive conservation program and new acquisitions, and also she directed the sculpture inventory for the Art Commission of the City of New York. Dr. Cohen holds a B.A. in Art History and English Literature from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a Ph.D. in Art History from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

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