A welded sculpture created by two Gateway Technical College students might unlock doors to jobs and recognition for them.
The artwork, called “Keycock,” is on its way to Florida for display during a national conference next week.
Graphic design student Greg Kirstein, 21, of Walworth, views the sculpture — peacock shaped and adorned with keys — as a boost to his resume as well as a satisfying creative endeavor.
“I’m excited to see where it will take me and what opportunities might come of it,” he said.
The piece will be exhibited during the American Association of Community College’s 21st Annual Workforce Development Institute at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel in St. Petersburg, Fla., from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1. Photos of the sculpture will decorate the Salvadore Dali Museum, which features works by the Spanish surrealist, across the street.
The sculpture was to be shown at the museum also, but organizers recently decided its 6-foot, more than 200 pound bulk made shuttling it between the sites too difficult, said Kirstein.
The idea of having local artwork at the event came from an association representative who contacted Stephanie Sklba, Gateway vice president for community and government relations, in August. The representative thought a Dali-influenced piece might be appropriate.
Some 30 Gateway students submitted proposals, and a college committee of staff selected five. Those designs were sent in September to Peter Tush, museum curator of education, who chose “Keycock.”
Tush said he enjoyed the title’s pun, saw confidence in Kirstein’s proposal, thought the design was “elegant and well-executed,” and believed the student’s previous design work suggested the finished product would be well-crafted.
Kirstein said the sculpture grew out of a previous class project that looked bird-like and had keys, hence a fellow student’s wordplay that became the new piece’s title.
Kirstein said a brainstorming session led his graphic communications instructor, Laura Laznicka, to contact welding instructor Scott Rhode about a collaboration. Both teachers are on Gateway’s Elkhorn campus. That’s when welding student Joe Felgenhauer joined the effort to perform the welds.
Laznicka said the work between departments was unique and encouraging.
“Our students need to be open to feedback and work with other designers and artists, so it was natural to make the transition into working with someone else,” she said.
Rhode found the overlapping between departments an attractive aspect of the project.
“Students then can see how welding blends with real life,” he said.
Sculpture might not be a traditional use of welding skills, he noted: “But this opens people’s minds about job fields to go into.”
Rhode said he’s offered tips on artistic approaches to welding when students wanted help on class projects.
“If you want texture, for example, you turn off the gas, which is something no welder would think of doing,” he said. “It doesn’t look good to a welder, but it gives a texture that an artist might want.”
Kirstein asked students, staff and the public to donate keys for use on the sculpture so it would be representative of the community.
“The keys,” he added, “could be said to represent the key to the future and show the positive benefits when a community comes together and creates something great.”
He said viewers should prepare for some brain exercise.
“The sculputre is interpretive, and it makes people think,” he said. “I think that’s what was interesting with Dali’s work — that it made people think and wonder, ‘What does this stand for?’”
The sculpture, once returned, might be shown on each of Gateway’s campuses then set up in Elkhorn. Sklba said a Gateway reception would be arranged.
Laznicka said the project will reward the students as well as the college.
“The sense of pride in our student community and the recognition on a national level this will bring is just amazing,” she said.
Materials used to create the work of art include:
-- A donated bicycle frame became the central part of the body.
-- Welding shop scrap metal, including a steel diamond plate and steel rod — which morphed into part of the arched head and neck — were used.
-- Copper flex tubing was purchased as tail feathers attached to the back of the bike frame.
-- Lighting was wired into the base.
-- About 100 keys hang from the copper tubing, which also has a chain and copper wire wrapped around it.
-- A working clock was built from steel parts and attached to the bike frame. It’s a reference to “The Persistence of Memory,” one of Salvadore Dali’s most famous pieces of artwork, which includes melting clocks.
Kirstein said about $500 was spent for materials. Including donated or otherwise free materials, he estimated the cost at $900. He said the college will reimburse the $500. If the sculpture were to be sold, he said, a $1,800 to $2,000 pricetag would be fair.