UMSL students win national art contest

by | Feb 15, 2010

Kristen Franke and Matt Grant, art education majors at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, placed second in the German Embassy's Freedom Without Walls national art contest for their sculpture, "Light Beyond the Wall."

Kristen Franke and Matt Grant, art education majors at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, placed second in the German Embassy’s Freedom Without Walls national art contest for their sculpture, “Light Beyond the Wall.” The award earned them a trip to the German Unity Celebration Oct. 3 at the German Embassy in Washington.

Kristen Franke and Matt Grant stand in front of the award -winning sculpture, "Light Beyond the Wall," they designed together.

The two came up with the design during an introduction to sculpture class taught by Noah Kirby, adjunct assistant professor of art at UMSL. The students were asked to create a sculpture about the fall of the Berlin Wall as part of UMSL’s commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the event this past November. Thirty universities entered the contest.

Franke, of Imperial, Mo., is quick to point out the sculpture was a group effort.

“While it’s great to win, it’s more about the journey we took as a group,” she said of her fellow sculpture students. “This was a complete group project that would never have been able to happen without every single person in our group.” In addition to Grant, of Webster Groves, Mo., the other UMSL students whose hard work and creativity went into making the sculpture are: Valerie Signaigo, Geoff Allen and Brittany Key.

Franke said the competition not only gave her a creative outlet in a new medium, but taught her about a major historical event she never learned about in school.

“I learned how to weld, pour concrete and other stuff I never thought I’d do,” said Franke. “To learn about the wall, I pulled up videos online. I was struck with how people must’ve felt. With our sculpture, we tried to express how people on both sides of the wall were feeling while it was still in place.”

The large sculpture is rectangular in shape. During the day, one can barely make out the opaque figures in the all-white flat surface. When it is illuminated from within at night, the figures are seen attempting to cross or climb the barrier.  The interactive sculpture was one of three on display at the UMSL Sculpture Garden, 7875 Florissant Road in Normandy, Mo.  “Light Beyond the Wall,” was removed after it was damaged during a winter storm.

Kirby welcomed the opportunity to build the Berlin Wall theme into his curriculum.

“This really expanded the potential of the students. They didn’t simply try to recreate the wall, but the idea of the wall. I’m very proud of them,” he said.

Larry Marsh, coordinator of the German Culture Center at UMSL, is thrilled the students took such an interest in the sculpture contest.

“I felt the work captured the spirit and meaning of the fall of the Berlin Wall,” said Marsh, who had visited the Berlin Wall prior to its toppling.

The project was underwritten by the UMSL’s German Culture Center with funding from the German Information Service in Washington.

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Kylie Shafferkoetter

Kylie Shafferkoetter

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