I Am is here

“I am a survivor.”
“I am free.”
“I am beautiful.”
“I am happy to be here.”

Such were just a few of the messages recorded on the large I AM installation on the quad on Oct. 21.
Staff from the Office of First Year Experience and faculty from the Fine Arts Department were present talking with passersby about the installation, encouraging students to write something down, something that in some way would positively define them at JSC.

Black paint markers were distributed for individuals to write on the sculpture’s white faces.
Several cameras were set up at different angles pointed at the structure, to help document the event in time-lapse form.

JSC’s Assistant Professor of Fine Arts and newly appointed Director of Julian Scott Memorial Gallery, Michael Zebrowski successfully held his first ART-Build course this past summer. Students worked together to create the very evident I AM structure located in the middle of the campus’s quad.

The ART-Build course consisted of five students, who had the main focus in project: Nana Asare, Martin De Geus, Alex Ottas, Ashley Slayton and Jillian Lisitano. According to Zebrowski, up to 30 students were involved with the project in some way. Many members of the Intro to Sculpture, and Advanced Sculpture classes also helped.

Zebrowski was inspired to create something where students could engage in a collaborative, creative, site-specific artistic process. “I am really interested in the idea that students are working together building something and sharing it; that’s really where it all began,” said Zebrowski.

After approaching members of the First Year program, Zebrowski had an intended client for the first ART-Build course. “What I felt was important was the incoming class, and each one of them coming to campus for the first time,” said Zebrowski. “The I AM acts as a welcoming, and this is why I felt the First-Year Experience program was the most appropriate to engage on campus.”

Final designs for the project took roughly four full weeks, making it longer than the actual construction process. “A lot of different designs were brainstormed on a very large sheet of paper together for almost a week before settling on the final design,” said Zebrowski. “Many different ideas and approaches were brought up, but as a group we decided what would stick.”

The most important criterion for Director of the First Year Experience, Margo Warden, was that the installation be inviting. “The ART-Build students met with us to discuss what we would like to see,” said Warden. “Our main goal was for them to work on creating something that would welcome the incoming class as well as returning students at the beginning of the fall 2015 semester.”

Zebrowski said his students liked the idea of having people interact with the structure by being able to climb and sit on it, not just look at it. “It was really a collaborative decision making process in making the structure while being peppered with my advising and awareness of the construction and safety,” says Zebrowski.

Slayton said her involvement with the program was a great experience. “I spent the whole summer doing a work-study with Zebrowski,” said Slayton. “I learned a lot and was able to be involved with the build from the beginning planning process, to the building and installation processes.”

Before her involvement with the ART-Build course, Slayton says that she didn’t know much about construction processes used in building. “I definitely know a lot more about these processes now,” she said. “It was a lot of team work and at the same time I learned that I could be just as helpful as everyone else that was involved.”

For Lisitano, being involved with the ART-Build proved to be an awakening experience. “Having never explored three-dimensional design I was fascinated with the creative process,” she said. “From start to finish, each step taken challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone, and think about the design, construction and final presentation.”

This was Lisitano’s first time working on a project like this with other students, and experience she found both novel and very positive. “The experience of coming together and joining our creativity was exciting, it fostered a space for sharing and supporting each other’s ideas,” she said. “This was a totally new experience for me, and seeing the model go from our studio to a full-scale piece was exciting and daunting.”

Since its final installation, Zebrowski has been hoping that the structure is making people stop and think about it. “I think generally when you set a piece of art out there you want people to question it,” said Zebrowski. “I just hope people are doing that and I think they are, and I hope they are engaging it.”

Warden’s hopes that the structure is making people think about who they are. “I think that quite often our minds are moving so quickly,” said Warden. “One of the goals that I would have is that the structure makes people pause to consider the I AM concept and to make it positive and guiding.”

Members from the JSC’s physical plant helped with the transportation and installation of the large letters by using a bucket loader. At the end of project after dealing with the challenges, Zebrowski was excited because they made it happen. “Without the support of everyone, this couldn’t have happened,” said Zebrowski.

As far as the future of the program goes, Zebrowski is already in the planning stages for the next ART-Build course. Clients for the Art Build program don’t have to be limited to JSC’s campus, he said; it could be something done in the town of Johnson, or embedded in other communities.
If you have any interest in possibly being a part of one of the JSC ART-Build courses you can get in contact with Zebrowski at [email protected], or call at (802)-635-2356.