Local Artist Drops New Art for STEM Building

When the STEM building opens this Fall, a collection of glass, clay, copper, stainless steel and sheet metal sculptures will hang from the lobby ceiling.

For almost a year, local artist Adam Kuby has been working on an art project to display in the new building. The college appointed a seven-member committee to control the new building’s artwork, which then selected Kuby out of over 250 public artists in July 2015, according to Washington State Arts Commission project manager Marissa Laubscher.

The committee, composed of construction managers, art and STEM faculty, college administrators, an architect and a local gallery owner, approved Kuby’s project proposal on May 2.

Kuby proposed his project over the course of six meetings, in which he and the committee members exchanged ideas. Ultimately, the committee has final say on Kuby’s project, so they can scrap it entirely or make any changes they see fit.

Being in the public art business for over 15 years, Kuby said he has found a balance between accepting the committee’s input and protecting the art’s concept.

While Kuby said he would have appreciated more initial guidance from the committee, he is still excited to work indoors, as almost all of his art pieces are outside.

Inside the lobby, Kuby plans to hang five cables from the ceiling, each cable suspending five pieces of material evenly spaced throughout its length. His chosen materials include glass, clay, sheet metal, copper and metal globes.

Four out of the five pieces will be dropped from heights escalating anywhere from three to 100 feet to create deformities. The random dropping of the materials was an artistic choice by Kuby to show how each material falls in a unique way.

“They fall how they fall,” Kuby said. “The dropping adds art in its randomness.”

Kuby will place the ornaments on the cable starting at the top from least deformed to most deformed, which will be determined by drop height.

“Drop them, fire them, glaze them, hang them,” Kuby said.

This process that Kuby designed inspired the artwork’s name, “Drop.”

During the presentation, Kuby swayed the committee to go for colored over raw materials. Kuby will be glazing the materials in swirls of earth-tones, saying he doesn’t want a lot of color but “enough to command presence.”

According to the ArtsWA Art in Public Places Program’s agenda from May 2, some guidelines provided for Kuby were that the art had to be science-based, beautiful and timeless.

Committee member and Engineering instructor Tina Barsotti said she was thrilled when Kuby first presented the idea. “You’re experiencing something,” Barsotti said. “Art is supposed to convey some sort of a feeling, and I think that this will.”

Kuby said he was inspired by the building’s drop tower, an elevator-like contraption that allows students to conduct free fall tests experimenting with physics. 

Adam Kuby displays stainless steel objects that will be part of his artwork “Drop” in his final meeting with the STEM Art Selection Committee on May 2.
Adam Kuby displays stainless steel objects that will be part of his artwork “Drop” in his final meeting with the STEM Art Selection Committee on May 2. The committee chose Kuby out of 250 other public artists to install his art with a $100,000 budget. (Bailey Scully/ The Independent)

Since the STEM building is considered a public building, up to 0.5 percent of its budget can be spent on artwork, according to the Washington State Arts Commission. The STEM building will cost about $39 million in total, according to Clark College Foundation Director of Communications Rhonda Morin, as reported in a previous article by the Independent. State funds cover over 90 percent of those costs with $36.4 million, with the Clark College Foundation raising nearly $2 million and other investors contributing the rest.

The total artwork budget for the STEM building amounts to $136,000, said Project Manager Jim Watkins. Kuby said he was given a $100,000 commission budget to spend for materials, labor, installation and fabrication.

Kuby first toured the STEM building last August, and has since been working closely with the architect and capital project manager to ensure proper installation and maintenance of his artwork, as well as safety for those who will be near it.

Clark senior graphic designer and committee member Jennifer Shadley said it is “100 percent possible” to host an event on campus where students can participate in dropping the ornaments, though there are no plans finalized yet.

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