- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

REDMOND, Ore. (AP) - So intent was Redmond High School senior Kyle Platt on buffing out some welding seams that it took him a moment to realize that the work a classmate was doing on the opposite side was sending a shower of sparks over his head. He’d been at it all morning, getting real-world practice in what until now had been just another class.

“Most of it has been good, but a few sections have been hard,” Platt said regarding the nearly 12-ton metal sculpture being installed at Redmond’s Yew Avenue roundabout this week.

“The thinner stuff is harder to work with because we have to weld at a cooler temperature so we don’t melt the metal.”

Platt and his fellow welding students from Redmond High - Alec Carter, Brock Penhollow, Tacoma Clowers and Seth Sutherland - have been working on the student-designed sculpture since spring, when a team of art students from Redmond, Ridgeview and Redmond Proficiency high schools turned over their part of the project.

The art piece’s installation culminates a two-year project involving the city, its school system and community artists.

It started with a $2,800 grant from the Oregon Arts Commission, enough to pay local metals artist Ryan Beard a stipend to mentor a team of students through the work. Materials were purchased by the city with funds set aside from the roundabout installation budget, and Redmond matched the grant with an in-kind donation of staff time dedicated to planning and installation. It’s estimated the project’s end budget will be around $30,000.

“The students were responsible for design, budget management, fabrication and installation of this sculpture,” said Community Development Director Heather Richards in a news release. “It was a huge undertaking, and they exceeded expectations, giving our community a tremendous legacy public art project that will be enjoyed by all.”

The city is hoping all the students who put in time on the project will be able to return for its ribbon cutting next week, including college freshman Teddy Tsai, who was responsible for the idea of using a Fibonacci-inspired swirl to show off the sculpture’s tribute to the High Desert.

“Yeah, he’s the math guy,” said Redmond Proficiency Academy student Bethany Easterbrooks. All the design team brought ideas, she added, including the images displayed inside the curves of the piece. The ½-inch steel vertical plates resemble a silhouette of the Cascades, and on its surface are glimpses of Central Oregon flora and fauna, composed of cut metal pieces welded in relief.

The effect is zoetropelike, with flickers of the imagery visible as drivers circle the roundabout.

“I spent a lot of time in the metal scrapyard, walking around looking at stuff,” Easterbrooks said. “I really enjoyed it; it’s like a metal Goodwill.” The designs came first, she said, then students made needed changes as the project went along if they couldn’t find the right metal pieces. “You have to look at it not for what it is but what it can be.”

Inside the mountain panels viewers will see a fox, a deer and an owl fashioned from rough metal pieces resembling torn paper, with accents of machinery odds and ends. A tableau reflective of the B & B Complex fire is littered with tree skeletons created from rusted saw blades cut in half. A “river” wends around the swirl, originated from a stainless steel conveyor belt.

“It was an amazing find, but I don’t think the students appreciated it so much when they tried to untangle it,” said Beard. “It was crazy - it had to be 60 feet long and tied in knots. It kept moving when we were trying to load it into the truck, like a fish.”

The welding students will spend the better part of several days doing the installation before the ribbon cutting. According to their teacher, Lance Hill, this is the first project the class has done off-site, and the longest.

“Normally they love doing 75 minutes of welding a day in class. It’s fun and they get to come in and play and practice,” he said. “But they were here for more than seven hours the first day and very tired by the time it was over. Even though we give them little tastes of what the career experience is like, it pales in comparison to a real-life experience. It’s been great to work with the kids and watch them find the solutions.”

On day one of the installation welding, Hill walked along with a hammer, trying to knock off the pieces recently added. After initial dismay, he said the students realized he was trying to keep them accountable and ensure a solid weld.

Hill worked with the art students as well, trying to help them understand how their paper concepts would translate into metal and how it would likely be viewed by drivers with only seconds to see it.

“You can’t put too many fine details in drive-by art,” Hill said. “People have to be able to get a quick look and in that time be able to realize ‘Hey, that’s cool.’ Already we’ve seen people going around the roundabout more than once to check it out. It’s hilarious.”

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Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com


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