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Miami University and Marquardt Middle School collaborate on sculpture project

Miami University and Marquardt Middle School collaborate on sculpture project

In a unique collaborative effort, Miami University and Marquardt Middle School (a minority/majority school located in the western Chicago suburbs) joined forces to create four stunning sculptures that embody the creativity and vision of students from both institutions.

Miami University alumnus Loren May, who also serves as the chair of the Education, Health, and Society Advisory Council, came up with the original idea and reached out to the Department of Art. Under the guidance of Rod Northcutt, a current sculpture faculty member at Miami University, the students worked in teams to design and construct the sculptures.

Zoë Neubig welding a metal sculpture together
CCA Alum Zoë Neubig welding a metal sculpture together.

“Sculpture can be extremely powerful, but only when it forms a connection with the viewers who interact with it,” said Northcutt. “The time that we spent working with the middle school students was critical to the development of these works as it helped us design things that we hope the Marquardt school community can understand and be proud of for years to come. These are their sculptures, we just designed and built them,” he explained.

The project initially commenced with great enthusiasm, but like many endeavors, faced a temporary setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the project was reignited in the spring semester of last year.
Taking the helm to finish the project was David Dotson, the preparator and operations manager at the Richard and Carole Cocks Art Museum at Miami University.

“It was a great experience collaborating with the College of Creative Arts, the Sculpture Department, and the Marquardt Schools,” Dotson said. “Zoë Neubig, a recent CCA graduate, and I enjoyed being able to interpret the original models from the project, and love seeing Miami students have their efforts recognized beyond the university setting.”

metal sculpture titled Chrysalis
When we see the difference between a caterpillar and a butterfly, it is sometimes hard to recognize the two as one. Similarly, the change seen in students from when they enter middle school and then graduate high school can be just as dramatic. This sculpture stands as a reminder of change, of metamorphosis. It is the husk, or a memory of the former self that is left behind when a freshly self-actualized person bravely seeks out a new future.
metal sculpture titled Sound of Music
Music is a crucial aspect of social development. It can help students form their personal identity, it can be inspirational, and it can soothe and give comfort when needed. Importantly, it becomes a memorable backdrop for the events that occur with growth. This sculpture was designed to reference the structure of music, inspired by the songs that were shared by the Marquardt students, using the 5 line staff and bars. To signify the sometimes capricious nature of the music that many of the students listened to, the staff takes on an unbalanced, unbridled, and perhaps untamed presence as it courses upward toward the sky.

The four sculptures were inspired by multiple interactive sessions held between Miami and middle school students at the Marquardt campus, which focused on discovering what middle school students truly care about. These sessions were followed by a number of video conferences. The efforts stand as testaments to the power of collaboration and creativity. Each sculpture is unique, though share a common theme of transformation and all were designed to embody unique interpretations of the middle-school students' passions and concerns.

Upon completion, the sculptures were carefully packaged and transported to the Marquardt Middle School Campus, where they will find their permanent home in the courtyard of the Marquardt Fine Arts Center. This installation will not only add beauty to the school environment but also serve as a lasting reminder of the partnership between Miami University and Marquardt Middle School.

metal sculpture titled Staircase
While a passage can signify movement, a staircase can more specifically represent upward movement. The students at Marquardt will move through their lives in many ways, and this sculpture was designed to represent paths to greatness, the embrace of more responsibility, and development into adulthood. This may be movement from elementary to middle school, middle to high school, or high school to a profession or to college, yet in each case it embodies the promise of growth and progress to a better place in time and space.
metal sculpture titled Young Minds
This sculpture was built around two ideas: 1) that many great thoughts emanate from enthusiastic young minds, and 2) that progressive thought should never be contained. The use of the egg shape on a stem is easy to understand as a head and neck, so it may follow that the upper portion would be where dreams, questions, and ideas would come from. Importantly, as they flow forth, notions break free from the constraint of existing only inside of the young mind as they become real in the world and are shared with others. Each floating orb could be the vessel for countless independent thoughts, and their release may embody a new reality in the form of speech, art, literature, and song.

 Speaking about the project, Loren May expressed his excitement and gratitude stating, "It's incredibly rewarding to see these students come together, exchange ideas, and create something meaningful. This project exemplifies the transformative power of art and education."

This collaborative effort between Miami University and Marquardt Middle School not only fosters artistic expression but also promotes community engagement and interdisciplinary learning, leaving a lasting impact on all involved. When installed, the sculptures will serve as a testament to the possibilities that arise when creativity and collaboration intersect.