OGDEN, Utah – What do you get when you cross a 1920s bottling plant, 3,000 cobalt-blue, glass bottles, vintage World War II military-grade steel mats and a dozen Weber State University visual arts students?
The answer is a new sculpture mounted on the side of the Utah Bottling Works Building at 2655 Kiesel Avenue in Ogden. The 12-feet tall, 100-feet wide work of art consists of 57 pieces of steel and glass weighing between 150-300 pounds each. The completed artwork represents the culmination of two semesters’ worth of work by an experimental public art class in WSU’s Department of Visual Arts.
The building’s heritage – it formerly housed the Purity Beverages bottling plant – influenced the students’ early design concepts for the project, ultimately leading to the use of glass bottles in the display.
The steel supports that hold the bottles were steel mats that the students discovered among the heaps of surplus military materials at Smith & Edwards. Darnell Nelson, a graphic design student who worked on the project, plotted where to place the glass bottles in each mat to create the undulating feel of the final work. The students consulted with an engineer about how to safely install pieces, then did the actual installation themselves.
Professor Suzanne Kanatsiz, who headed up the project, said public art classes provide art students a practical way to use their skills to earn a living in the real world.
“We weren’t sitting in a room talking about what we were going to do,” Kanatsiz said. “We were living it.”
That experience included dealing with many of the headaches and setbacks associated with a project of this scope. Students grappled with limitations and frustrations, ranging from acquiring the right type of bottles to delays and problems in painting the wall prior to mounting the sculpture.
“Like any large-scale sculpture, they learned how to work through problems,” Kanatsiz said.
The project originated with the building’s owners, George Hall and Mary Ann Miller. They wanted to revitalize the outside of the building, which houses offices and apartments. Hall contacted the visual arts department at WSU to see what could be done to beautify the facility.
The final work far exceeds Hall’s original thoughts of a mural. “It’s incredible – well beyond our initial expectations.”
Hall hopes it will serve as a catalyst to “spur other property owners in Ogden to do something of a like nature with WSU students.”
The sculpture will be lighted for the first time on the evening of March 4.
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