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SCIENCE AND ART – Bigger-than-life
portraits of four famous scientists have been installed in the glass block
stairwells of Southeastern Louisiana University's Pursley Hall, home of
the Chemistry and Physics Department. The artwork was created by two visual
arts majors under the auspices of the College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate
research program, OSCAR. Shown with the artwork in the north stairwell
are, from left, digital art professor John Valentino; senior art major
Shanna Montgomery of Covington, who created the artwork with fellow student
Feltus Wirtz, now a Southeastern alumnus; President Randy Moffett; Chemistry
and Physics Department Chair Dan McCarthy; and chemistry and physics professor
Sarah Weaver. Valentino and Weaver oversaw the project.
STUDENTS CREATE ARTWORK FOR PURSLEY HALL
HAMMOND -- When Southeastern
Louisiana University's Pursley Hall was renovated in the late 1990s, cylindrical
glass block stairwells were added to each side of the North Oak Street
home of the Chemistry and Physics Department.
Glinting with sunlight
or glowing after dark, the stairwells have been an attractive and dramatic
addition to the campus architecture.
Now, they look just as good inside
as they do outside.
Bigger-than-life portraits of
four icons of science -- Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Isaac Newton and
Niles Bohr -- now hang in pairs in each stairwell. The translucent panels,
colorfully depicted on four by eight-foot panels of polymer film stretched
in aluminum frames, shine like stained glass against the beveled blocks.
The panels were created by two
Southeastern digital art students, Shanna Montgomery, a senior from Covington,
and Feltus Wirtz of Abita Springs, who graduated last May. The project
was funded by OSCAR (the Office of Student Creative Activities and Research),
a College of Arts and Sciences program that promotes collaboration between
faculty and undergraduate students on research and creative projects.
This particular OSCAR project
also prompted a partnership between Southeastern's chemistry and physics
and visual arts faculty.
It all began when Wirtz approached
his digital arts professor, John Valentino, about applying for an OSCAR
grant to create a large-scale artwork. Valentino had just the project in
mind, thanks to chemistry and physics professor Sarah Weaver. The two had
met at an orientation session for new faculty, and had chatted about ways
in which their departments could collaborate. Weaver mentioned the stairwells.
"We had these huge beautiful
stairwells that were rather blank and boring on the inside," said Weaver.
"When Feltus asked me about OSCAR,
I thought, ‘Let's make a project out of the stairwells,'" said Valentino.
Wirtz, who now works for Turbosquid,
a digital media design company in New Orleans, brought fellow art major
Montgomery in on the project.
"We showed them the space and
they took off with it," Valentino said.
Montgomery said she and Wirtz
decided to incorporate the glass blocks' grid as the artwork's background
and to use a media that would compliment the space's natural light. They
researched their choice of scientific subjects and okayed the concept with
Valentino, Weaver and Chemistry and Physics Department Chair Dan McCarthy.
"We were given a lot of artistic
freedom," Montgomery said. "It was great to work on such a large scale
and to have something installed on campus. It gives us (art students and
faculty) feedback from other areas."
The four panels were printed
on the university Digital Arts Center's Roland FJ-500 printer -- a huge
machine that can generate quality prints up to 53-inches wide and of any
length. Valentino and Weaver recruited chemistry and physics colleagues
Maury Howard and Randy Belter to help assemble the frames and hang the
"It was right around the time
of Hurricane Lili," said Weaver, laughing. "We had everything -- aluminum,
power tools -- strewn out in the hallways. It looked like a machine shop
"I had a good time," she added.
"I enjoyed working with faculty outside my area."
President Randy Moffett, who
recently visited Pursley Hall to view the artwork,
said the experience the project gave the students, plus the opportunity
it created for an interdisciplinary faculty venture, is "a great example
of why OSCAR is so good for us."
The popularity of the College
of Arts and Sciences' undergraduate research program, and its potential
to help recruit top students, has prompted Southeastern to expand the concept
to each of its colleges. Beginning this semester, students in the College
of Business and Technology can participate in PROFIT (Preferred Research
Option for Intensive Training), Nursing and Health Sciences students have
SOAR (Student Opportunities for Achievement and Research), and the College
of Education and Human Development has established SURE (Student Undergraduate
Research in Education).
"This was the first radically
interdisciplinary OSCAR project," said McCarthy.
Since Montgomery has class in
Pursley Hall, she gets to keep a regular eye on her artwork. "It's nice
to walk by them on the way to my Earth Science class," she said with a
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