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A living sculpture

SECCA 12 By Kim Underwood

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

FEBRUARY 3, 2015 – This morning, students at Wiley Magnet Middle School headed to the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art to help create a living sculpture.

Under the guidance of Mary Mattingly, a New York artist participating in a show at SECCA, and Donald Sawyer, an art student at Winston-Salem State University serving as an intern at SECCA, the students chose a seed for a vegetable or flower and planted it in a recycled container that may have once held yogurt. They then stepped over to a geodesic dome and attached their container to the dome wherever they wanted.

Student Jeremiah Middlebrooks said he enjoyed the process. “It’s really fun,” he said. “I like hands-on stuff.”

“I like it,” said student Jaeshaune Fisher. “I think it’s creative. I never thought of doing stuff like that.”

SECCA 3 More Wiley students are coming to SECCA tomorrow morning to do the same thing. And members of the public have been invited to visit SECCA this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon to participate in the project.

For now, the dome will remain on display inside. Once the danger of frost is past, the dome will be taken outside and floated on a platform on the lake behind SECCA. And, in the days that follow, the dome will become a sphere of growing plants – cucumbers, beans, watercress, wild flowers.

“I think it’s extraordinary,” Sawyer said. “It will be a changing sculpture.”

Students Sarah Altmann, Katherine Hubbard and Kamaela Amaris plan to come back once the dome is floating on the lake to see what they helped create.

“I think it’s cool,” said Sarah.

“I want to see how it all comes out,” Katherine said.

SECCA 18 “It’s going to be really pretty – a big ball of plants,” said Kamaela.

Mattingly is one of the artists participating in “Collective Actions,” a group show at SECCA that looks at how people work together. In her art, Mattingly often combines recycled materials and plants to create floating art. Mattingly said that one thing she hopes that students also picked up along the way was how easy it would be for them to grow their own food.

“It’s great to have the artist here working with our students,” said Scarlett Mooney, the STEAM Instructional Coach and Magnet Coordinator at Wiley. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math, which is Wiley’s magnet theme.

The experience aligned with the school’s magnet theme and helped students see who how art can be integrated into everyday life. “It’s a pretty cool experience,” Mooney said. “We are fortunate that SECCA worked to put it together.”

SECCA 6 Having Mattingly work with the Wiley students is part of The Intersections Project (TIP), a collaboration among SECCA, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and the Arts Council of Winston-Salem &Forsyth County. One of the goals of the project is to bring together artists, teachers and students.

Beta Verde – a local company that makes jams, pickles and syrups – served as the community partner for the living sculpture. Beta Verde provided the soil and seeds, some of which were heirloom seeds from Old Salem.

“For me, art and nature go right together,” said Margaret Norfleet Neff, who founded Beta Verde with her daughter Salem. 

The 27 eighth-graders from Wiley are students in Maggie Campbell-Helms’ Technology, Design & Innovation class.

“We’re really excited to have this opportunity,” Campbell-Helms said. “I like it because we can take this idea and run with it in several directions.”

As it happens, the students have been doing 3D designing on the computer lately so one possibility is creating their own designs for geodesic domes.

Jeremiah said he likes that Wiley combines technology with art. “When you combine it,” he said, “it helps you figure out more things you can learn.”

SECCA 19 The geodesic dome at SECCA is 8 feet in diameter, which means it could not be taken through any of the doors. So it was designed so to be taken apart and reassembled. In March, Mattingly will be coming back to town and plans to spend time at Wiley with the students.

Mattingly said that she enjoyed working with the students this morning. “I’m learning new things as I go.”

More information about the show is available at SECCA 

Kim Underwood