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The thousands of food cans used in the projects will be donated to Feeding America Southwest Virginia.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Cans of tuna fish as art?
And cans of mushrooms, beans and whatever else is found in grocery store aisles.
Several Burton Center for Arts and Technology students carefully arranged stacks of cans at the Taubman Museum of Art on Thursday afternoon. They pushed and pulled, stepped back to take a look, yielded to the advice of classmates and paid particular attention to an assembly of light green cans of tuna fish.
The students were among nine teams participating in the area’s first “canstruction” competition, which is equal parts art, engineering and philanthropy.
Each team uses thousands of cans to create a sculpture, which will be judged and displayed before being disassembled. Afterward the cans will be donated to Feeding America Southwest Virginia.
The Burton team’s piece, dubbed “Feeding Magritte” and consisting of 4,200 cans, is an homage to the surrealist artist Rene Magritte. His painting “Son of Man,” depicting a man wearing a suit and tie with his face covered by a green apple, was their inspiration, hence the tuna fish cans being fashioned into an apple.
“I knew it was going to be unique from the start,” said Burton senior Jordan Criss, 17.
Criss arrived for her shift to help assemble the sculpture late Thursday afternoon.
“I can’t believe it’s this far” she said, staring at the sculpture that was growing taller by the minute.
She said she thinks her team has the edge.
“I definitely think we have the popular vote,” she said.
The Burton crew represents the contest’s youngest contenders in a field crowded with architecture and engineering pros. They are the only high school students participating, but that didn’t matter to them. Kroger donated the canned goods used by the Burton team and sold the cans used by the other teams at a reduced price.
Senior Thomas Kidd, 17, said they want to win, but in the end it’s all for a good cause.
“It’s all friendly and fun,” he said. “It’s all going to help out.”
Thinking back to the project’s original design, which went through several iterations, he said it was hard to imagine the sculpture becoming reality.
Kidd said he thought: “There’s no way this is going to happen.”
The school’s art students honed in on a design, and engineering students figured out how to make it real.
Junior Jayson Mayo, 16, said students used the measurements of the cans and the sculpture to figure out how to actually create the sculpture.
“It’s not that difficult,” he said. “It’s simple geometry.”
While neighboring teams used computer programs to put together their plans, Mayo said his team’s figures were done on paper.
Next to the Burton team, downtown Roanoke architecture firm SFCS was working on its design, a large stalk of corn rising up from a star.
Michael Lawson, an architecture technician, explained his team used a computer program to get the design just right. As he talked about the sculpture, one of the firm’s structural engineers was planted on the ground helping to stack cans.
“I’m excited to see it,” he said of his nearby teenage competition. “I’m a little competitive.”
Elsewhere, architecture and engineering firm Clark Nexsen’s team had assembled its sculpture of a frying pan with bacon, and Aecom staffers were working on their own homage to an artist: Steve Jobs. They were assembling a sculpture depicting Jobs’ face.
Judges will evaluate the sculptures today and award several honors, including Best Use of Labels, Jurors Favorite and Best Meal, among others. Once the competition is complete the structures will remain in place for viewing until Oct. 12.
After that the canned food will be taken to the Feeding America Southwest Virginia warehouse. The nonprofit expects to receive 20,000 cans from the competition.
“We estimate three tractor-trailers to take this back to the food bank,” said Erich Geist, IT and data director for the group.
The sizable donation comes at an important time.
“It’s important because as we come out of the summer season, which is typically a slow donating season for us, our shelves, our warehouses are typically pretty low on stock as we head into the holidays,” Geist said. “This is going to be a great initial boost for us.”
Feeding America Southwest Virginia and other contest organizers are also hopeful the canstruction project is something they’ll be able to bring back next year.
Lora Katz of Gilliam Katz Architecture + Design, who chaired the event, said organizers thought it was a good idea to bring the contest to Roanoke.
“It’s the largest community in Virginia that had not had a canstruction event,” she said. “We thought it would be a great event to bring together art, bring together community and bring together charitable giving into one.”
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