Adjunct professor of art and visual culture Totem Shriver and students from his January Term course, Introduction to Studio Art, filled a wooden sculpture with kindling and set it ablaze in the field outside of the Miller Fine Arts Center at 7 p.m. April 21.
More than 100 community members, Linfield students, staff, family and friends gathered to watch the collaborative sculpture titled “Hand in Hand” burn during the annual “Built to Burn” event.
Junior Ariel Martindale said the community aspect was what drew her and her friends to attend.
“There were a bunch of people there that wanted to come out on a nice day and see a big fire,” she said. “Just about everyone was represented at the burning.”
Everyone watched as Shriver climbed past the wooden shapes and designs adorning “Hand in Hand” to the top of the sculpture, where a windmill was counterbalanced by a giant hand. The professor applied paint thinner to the blades while the crowd cheered loudly.
The sculpture didn’t collapse immediately. It took about 30 minutes for the flames to bring it down, Martindale said.
“It ended up a pile of embers — that’s when people started bringing out the marshmallows,” she said.
The sculpture’s title “came out of the idea that it was a collaborative effort,” Shriver said.
“A lot of my experiences this year with this [project] have come because I incorporated a few things that we’ve lacked here,”he said.
Among the things Shriver incorporated into the third sculpture-burning endeavor were music and food. Tables full of food provided by observers were set up on the field. People grazed on the snacks as they enjoyed each other’s company, talking and taking photos on cell phones, digital cameras and even iPads.
“There was a bunch of dancing at the end,” Martindale said. “There was some good music playing, and the younger crowd was dancing and having a good time.”
January is the best time to complete a collaborative project because the class meets daily, Shriver said.
“We get kind of like a family during that month, you can get a lot of work done,” he said.
The project began from small-scale toothpick sculptures on display in the library, Shriver said. He gave the class some guidelines, and the students went to the shop and came up with some ideas.
“Generally there’s a hump to get over when you do a collaborative project like this — I’ve found that’s frequently true,” Shriver said. “There’s a point when they [students] have to start thinking as one unit or where they fit within a larger whole unit, but I really love the idea that they can find their place among the pecking order. They get to see their strengths and weaknesses.”
Marrying experience and community is the primary objective for the “Built to Burn” celebrations.
“Art is a way to bring people together and to experience the community. That’s what I’m discovering,” Shriver said. “Every year we’ve done it, it’s grown a little bit.”
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