JACKSON, Tenn. – April 12, 2012 – A ring of about 30 people in downtown Columbus, Ga., in March stood watching a group of six from Union University’s art department who were working with two-by-four pieces of wood.
Over the course of one weekend, the team estimated that nearly 1,000 people stopped by to surround them and quench their curiosity with questions for the team.
“Tic Tac Toe,” an interactive sculpture designed to serve as both an art piece and a bench, emerged from behind the small ring of people. Art professor Lee Benson designed the sculpture.
“Every time I have a piece during the school year that I think the students could be involved in, I take them with me,” Benson said. “(We) try to get students involved in our professional endeavors so they’ll become familiar with the process. They’re a big help, but they also learn a lot. They learned probably more that weekend than they learned in a semester of sculpture class.”
Discovering how to create art despite an audience was part of the value of the trip for the students, Benson said.
“You have to learn to handle the pressure of an audience and not let them affect the sculpture,” he said.
Ellen Cline, a sophomore art major, said working for Benson taught her about making art with patience and exactness.
“I learned from being so close to Mr. Benson’s process,” Cline said. “He works really hard and makes us work really hard. We saw the sunrise each day of the trip.”
When they had already built the sculpture 17 inches high, they realized their measurements had been slightly incorrect. Benson decided they should take it all down, re-measure and build it up from the cement again.
“My tendency would have been to say, ‘It’s one-fourth of an inch off, let’s keep going,’” Cline said. “He just took a deep breath and kept working.”
Mid-construction, they also adjusted the design of the seating area of the sculpture to avoid safety hazards, in compliance with city officials’ request.
Cline said the sculpture construction was not the only interesting aspect of their trip. Benson and his wife were willing to take time to enjoy the trip, she said.
Because they were nearby, on a Sunday the team visited the church that former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, attend. It was one of the few days out of the year that Carter taught Sunday school. Benson estimated 300 people showed up to hear Carter teach, in a church that is accustomed on other Sundays to having less than 30 people at the service.
Cline said Carter taught the Bible well to a captive audience. Afterward, the team took a picture with the former president and his wife and returned to Union.
By Samantha Adams (’13)