Bear display part of new art series on campus

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By Sarah Brookbank

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Last week, the walk to class for many students was a little wild as six Styrofoam bears were on display on the walkway between William T. Young Library and Chemistry-Physics Building.

This outdoor installation was sponsored by the Student Activity Board’s cultural arts committee and were created by an associate professor of Architecture in the College of Design.

Integrated strategic communication senior, Taylor Hamilton, the director of the cultural arts committee, said that the installation is a part of their ‘Art Matters’ series.

“Our goal is to make art more accessible for students, faculty and staff,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said the arts board is small for a school the size of UK but they try to bring the fine arts to campus for reasonable prices. Their board has brought in artists to do ice and sand sculptures, and murals.

“We’re trying to show that art doesn’t have to be restricted to a museum or an exhibit,” Hamilton said.

And they did just that with the Massimal exhibit. Hamilton said they came across the work of Jason Scroggin at the Beaux Arts Ball and asked him if he would work with them.  The large bears were created and brought to campus with the help of U-hauls and SAB.

“It was easier than I thought it would be,” Hamilton said.

The Massimals were made of Styrofoam and piping and took three people to move.

When Scroggin was approached by SAB to have the Massimals outdoors, he said he was hesitant at first because the creations are lightweight.

“I knew people would kind of interact with them. I didn’t expect it to be like this though but it’s been interesting,” Scroggin said. “They’ve been putting them in compromising positions.”

Scroggin said while the display is meant to be interactive, there have been some interesting interactions. He said one of his students sent him a screenshot of the UK Snapchat story when the bears had been stacked on top of one another. Some of the installations suffered damage, one even lost a leg.

“That’s probably the frustrating part … Clearly people are getting a little bit rough with it,” Scroggin said.

The Massimal project started in 2010, when Scroggin and his design partner Akari Takebayashi, an instructor in the architecture program, were invited to show their research.

Scroggin said most of the time, artists show renderings or scale models that people can see and understand but he and Takebayashi wanted to create something interactive to show off their research.

“Our research was based in developing or enhancing the public realm. Akari, being from Japan had never seen a petting zoo before,” Scroggin said. “Some of our initial ideas for the installation were dealing with making large models and ‘how could we package it in a way people might respond to?’ And we though ‘Oh animals’.”

Scroggin and Takebayashi took the one form, made it to scale, and created different iterations of it based on their research involving surface and the manipulation of planes. So when the opportunity came to create these designs, they chose bears, a massive terrestrial animal, though whales came into the discussion at one point.

The Massimal series includes multiple bears, many of which are designed differently.

The figures are based on architectural modeling, like massing models for rooms and contour models for landscaping, where designers use foam and digital software to create examples of spaces using cubes and pixels and using planes to design landscapes. Some forms are tessellated, or folded out similar to origami, or egg-crate, where pieces of the models are slotted together to make a whole.

Since creating the original five pieces, they have created a giant rainbow Massimal for the Beaux arts ball, a Massimal out of zip ties and have an installation in Long Beach Museum of Art. They were also asked to create a Massimal tiger for China, which fell through. Scroggin said that his interest in the project is creating different designs within the constraints of the form.

“Each one was its own showcase for (architectural research) through this animal form … that people could kind of relate to,” Scroggin said.

CORRECTIONS: There were six bears on display. Jason Scroggin is an associate professor in the College of Design.