February 25, 2013 - 3:15am

When Sarah Kalcsics, Marketing & Fundraising Manager at The Port Theatre, decided the theatre’s lobby needed a little pizazz she knew just who to call – VIU’s Visual Arts department.

“We’re always interested in building community partnerships and I thought it would be great if we could somehow get the students involved in livening up the lobby,” says Kalcsics.

She got in touch with Gregory Ball, an instructor in the university’s Visual Arts department, and after some creative back-and-forth the two came up with a project that would both brighten up the theatre’s lobby, and give students in Visual Arts classes an opportunity to put their work – and skills – on public display.

“We decided something three-dimensional would work best in the space, and started brain-storming ideas,” says Ball. “Then we realized that, hanging above our heads in the foyer of VIU’s art building, were three-dimensional sculptures students had created the previous year. We immediately knew that was the way to go.”

First, Ball and Kalcsics came up with some parameters for the project – that the sculptures should fit a theatre or music theme since they’d be hanging in The Port Theatre, and that the students would have to build them out of cardboard.

“Cardboard is such a bland undervalued material, we felt it would be interesting to show how it can be used to create something meaningful like art,” explains Jason Gress, also an instructor in VIU’s Visual Art department. “It’s also easy to work with, which was important, as this was the first foray into sculpting for many of the students.”

The students were given a tour of The Port Theatre so they could get a clear understanding of its inner workings and the scale of the project. Then they were given six weeks to complete their sculptures, at the end of which Kalcsics chose the ten most suitable for display in The Port Theatre.

Jason Ritter, a first year Visual Arts student, spent about 45 hours creating a fit-for-a-giant Theatrical Harlequin mask. “It was a big learning experience but I really enjoyed the challenge,” says Ritter. “First we had to build a *maquette* which is basically a small-scale model of our piece. Then we built the final sculpture. The mask was really tricky as it has lots of different angles and I had to troubleshoot to fit the pieces together – about 50 in total –in an appealing way. I also had to ensure the mask was structurally strong, so it could be hung from the lobby ceiling.”

Bibi Peterson, a third year student taking both Theatre and Visual Arts courses, built a sculpture of a theatre spotlight and was thrilled to have her piece chosen. “I love to build things and am hoping one day to work as a set and prop designer. This project was great as I had to put my creative and technical skills to work. For example, the spotlight has really big panels on the end of it, and it took some time to figure out the best way to stop them from falling forward.”

Some of the students, including Curtis Sowden, an Accounting major, are taking this course as an elective and never imagined they’d be building sculptures. “I had assumed all the work would be two-dimensional, like painting or drawing,” says Sowden. “So, this project was a surprise. But it was really great. I decided to build a guitar and although it was a lot harder than I thought it would be, I really enjoyed the challenge.”

Kalcsics was thrilled with the way the project turned out and hopes to continue partnering with the Visual Art department. Ball and Gress were also delighted with the results.

“We’re always looking for ways to build partnerships with the community,” says Gress. “This was a great opportunity to take the work students are doing as part of their curriculum and bring it to the community’s attention in a high profile space.” According to Kalcsics more than 90,000 people pass through the theatre every year.

The mobile sculptures will be on display for at least six months so if you’re going to a show or even just passing by The Port Theatre, head inside and look up, way up, and take in the larger-than-life theatrical sculptures created by VIU’s talented students.

Tags: In the Community

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