Bowdoin Seniors Install Public Art on The Commons Bridge

Rachel Brooke ’16 and Mariah Reading ’16

The Coffin’s Ice Pond footbridge is the latest site for a student-made public art project.

On one side of the bridge, Mariah Reading ’16, Rachel Brooke ’16, and Molly Ryder ’15 have fastened a long row of narrow panels that hold carefully preserved leaves. The leaves have been caught in their prime autumnal colors and arranged in a flowing band of color, from red to yellow to green and back to red.

On the other side of the bridge, the panels contain sand, shells, and bits of broken glass.

The project originated in the art class, Public Art, taught in the fall of 2014 by John Bisbee. Students were asked to design an art installation for a public space in Brunswick.

Reading said she and her partners knew right away they wanted to work in The Commons, the acres of conserved forest that abut Bowdoin’s playing fields. They focused on the footbridge over the pond. “What spoke to us was this beautiful bridge,” Reading said, “bridging the gap between Brunswick and Bowdoin.” She joked, “Why not be literal about it?”

The installation, called Convergence, is “beautiful and simple,” encapsulating both the forest and ocean of Maine, Reading explained.

To help pay for materials, the three students received a $1,000 grant from the Delta Sigma/Delta Upsilon Fund of Bowdoin College. They also had to seek approval from the Brunswick town council to install the piece on town land. Throughout their process, they received support from Susan Weems, who runs the nonprofit Brunswick Public Art.

Brooke continued working on the project last fall in another class taught by John Bisbee, Art and Time. Working in a studio in Fort Andross, in downtown Brunswick, Brooke dried and pressed many colorful leaves collected by students who are part of the campus club Bowdoin Art Activists. She then sprayed the leaves with acrylic.

Next year, Reading, who is from Bangor, Maine, will teach art at the Crane Country Day School in Santa Barbara, Calif. Brooke, who plans to attend medical school, is working in a Massachusetts General Hospital laboratory researching breast cancer.

thumb: