Creating in Community

Bowdoin Students Design Art For Brunswick Spaces

During the fall of 2013, students in Mark Wethli’s community-based Public Art course (Visual Arts 3804) turned their artistic vision toward the Brunswick and Bowdoin communities. Responding to an open call from the Brunswick Public Art Committee, each of the eighteen students in Wethli’s class designed and proposed a public art piece for a space in Brunswick’s Fort Andross. The BPA committee encouraged students to consider the social and ecological significance of the building: the historic textile mill is now a hub of local commercial and artistic activity. In a gathering at the Fort in the late fall, students stood in front of poster boards and pitched their ideas to committee and community members. Imagined artworks took on a range of materials and spaces: from murals on the building’s exterior, to outdoor and indoor courtyard spaces, to large-scale sculptures. Students Fabiola Navarrete and Mik Cooper, both seniors, are now semi-finalists in the competition. The BPA is considering their mural designs alongside proposals from local working artists for installation in the fort.
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Bowdoin has a longstanding relationship with the Brunswick Art Committee, forged by Professor Mark Wethli and his students through four prior semesters of Public Art courses. Today, artworks by alumni of the course exist in various public spaces throughout town, including Hannaford, Harriet Beecher Stowe School, and the Mid Coast Primary Care and Walk-in Clinic.

While the proposal for the fort was one of the culminating projects of the course, Public Art students took on several other design projects during the semester. Another assignment invited the class to create intervention artworks on Bowdoin’s campus: students donned crazy costumes for performance pieces, slipped fortune cookie messages into campus mailboxes, turned over all of the flyers in the union hallway, and distributed poetry. A solicitation then came from Brunswick’s new Orange Leaf frozen yogurt joint, and the class designed murals for the store’s interior. Senior Haley Gewandter’s proposal especially appealed to community members, who voted in the store and online, and she now waits to paint her winning design in the store. The course has formally ended in the new 2014 semester, but individual visions are still manifesting out in the community.
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This is the second in a series highlighting Bowdoin students’ engagement in Maine communities through courses and research.

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