By this time next year, drivers passing through the intersection of North College Drive and Poe Road will see a quite different sight than the one that greets them today. In place of the bleak, nondescript area, there will be a public artwork that identifies the site as part of the Great Black Swamp, of the city of Bowling Green and as the northwest entryway to the University.
BGSU’s Public Art Committee approached the BGSU Sculpture Club this fall about coming up with a design to beautify the corner. The Wood County Commissioners and the city, also desiring to improve the site, contributed to the project as well.
Three teams of five students studied the situation in a “Poe Road Improvement Project” class taught by Greg Mueller, School of Art. Each came up with a very different concept for the area.
After presentations to a panel of judges that included Dr. Linda Dobb, executive vice president; Bowling Green Mayor John Quinn; Dr. Katerina Rüedi Ray, director of the School of Art, and sculptor Hanna Jubran, a professor from East Carolina University, the winner was announced Nov. 30.
Winning was a project called “The People,” a portrait of the community in silhouette. To be created from laser-cut steel and matte-black aluminum, the piece consists of three thin walls set in tinted concrete.
The first, a mural “fence,” would replace the battered chain link fence surrounding the Wood County highway garage on the southwest corner. The new fence will be made up of silhouettes of real community people engaged in everyday activities and jobs. The team explained that the intention was to draw the community into the artwork and show the diversity of Bowling Green.
Using computer technology to enlarge photographs taken by the team, the artists will create the silhouettes. “We’ll have 300 feet of fence made up of people in the community,” said Megan Small, a junior from Wooster majoring in two-dimensional art with an emphasis on drawing.
At the corner, that section will merge into a 12-foot silhouette depicting the Black Swamp. Its lacy design of native plants and animals is based on hundreds of photographs taken by the team and reflects the area’s natural history. “We thought that it would be fun to hide little animals in it so that when parents and kids are stopped at the light, the kids can search for them. There’s a turtle, a frog, a dragonfly—about 20 animals in all,” explained Jason Karas, a junior from Akron majoring in 3-D art with an emphasis in sculpture. “We tried to put a bit of humor into the piece.”
The third component is a cityscape of buildings from the area, including the city and University plus the new wind turbines west of Bowling Green.
The walls will be eight feet high, gently rising to the 12-foot Black Swamp design in the main area, where the plan is to eventually have benches around an existing tree. The pieces will be lit at night with low-energy, high-output LED lights.
Working within the confines of the $20,000 budget, the students showed a good deal of initiative in soliciting donations to the project. Defiance Metal Products has agreed to donate all the steel and aluminum and to do the laser cuts, said Colby Zachrich, a senior from Bryan who is a 3-D art major with an emphasis in ceramics.
Student manpower will be added to the professional labor of concrete pourers and other skilled workers. Commissioner Tim Brown, who attended the presentations, said the county would also provide manpower for the project. “We have a vested interest in beautifying this corner, too,” he said.
The other team members are Stephen Williams, a junior from Gibsonburg majoring in 3-D art with an emphasis in sculpture, and Bethany Haeseler, a senior from Sidney majoring in 3-D art with an emphasis in glass and metals.
Together, they studied the area’s utility lines and property rights and consulted professionals in the construction trades. As much indoor work as possible will be done this winter, the team said, and then in April the actual construction can begin.
“As much as I tried to prepare them for the project, they still blew me away with all the extra effort they put in,” Mueller said of all three teams. “They stepped up to the plate and really showed they are artist-citizens working with the community.
“April will be busy,” he predicted.
The projects proposed by the other two teams were “Cyclebowl,” a humorous, eye-catching display of giant, neon green bowling pins, and “Sculpture Park,” a more pedestrian-oriented plan for a rotating outdoor sculpture garden and seating area.
All three projects can be seen through Jan. 8 in the Student Union Art Gallery. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.