February 15, 2019

Miami University Sculptors Inspire Chicago Middle Schoolers

Sculpture professor Rod Northcutt has enlisted six Miami University art students to help him complete a project he started almost a year ago.

Northcutt’s project includes four steel sculptures decorating the new performing arts center at Marquardt Middle School in Chicago. This project has given the advanced sculpture students the opportunity to work on a real public art project, a worthwhile addition to the sculptors’ art portfolios for pursuing jobs after graduation.

Furthermore, this project allows the sculpture students to influence a younger generation of potential artists.

“These sculptures will be on display for students to be encouraged by the fact that art has a future for them, if they want it,” said senior Ezra Nepo, one of the two students who has been working on this project since the beginning. A total of six Miami students spend five hours per week welding in Hiestand Hall under the supervision of Northcutt and Architecture professor Sam Toland.

The research, planning and welding for the project began last spring. The final concepts reflect the interests of the current generation of middle schoolers at Marquardt Middle School.

Two of the four concepts for this project, entitled “Stairway to Heaven” and “Chrysalis,” remain in the early production stages and likely won’t debut until next semester. However, the projects named “Birdcage” and “Sound of Music” will debut this spring.

If the project continues as planned, this will begin a long-term relationship between Marquardt Middle School and Miami University. The cycle will repeat every four years and the four Miami sculptures will move to an outdoor location to make room for new sculptures more representative of the students in the school at that time.

“It’s going to be a continuing cycle of art,” said Miami alum Benjamin Delano, the second student who has remained with this project since the beginning. “We want it to best reflect the students — it’s for them and about them. We want it to reflect them even as time passes,” said Delano.

The Miami University student sculptors have worked hard to ensure the project reflects the students of Marquardt Middle School. The research phase of the project included a trip to the middle school to meet the students.