CSU, Chico News

Walczak & Heiss Selected for New Arts and Humanities Building Public Art Project

Date: 02-09-2015

Sarah Langford
Public Affairs
Kelly Lindner, Director/Curator
University Art Gallery and Public Art

The California State University, Chico Campus Public Arts Committee is pleased to announce the selection of artist team Walczak & Heiss and their piece “Facewall” for the public art project on the south-facing wall of the campus’ new arts and humanities building.

Walczak & Heiss is an interactive civic-art design collaborative based in New York City and Pennsylvania. Partners Marek Walczak and Wesley Heiss have collaborated since 2007 and have been awarded numerous public art projects, most recently by the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming and the Stapleton Recreation Center in Denver, Colorado. Trained as architects, Walczak & Heiss also have extensive solo exhibition records as artists.

Marek Walczak has an international reputation in architecture, public artwork and new media, with pieces in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, amongst others. Wesley Heiss is an artist and assistant professor of industrial design at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with substantial experience in animation, computer-aided design and manufacturing and interactive sculpture.

“Facewall” by Walczak & Heiss will be a 42-foot-wide stainless steel sculpture integrated into the Second Street façade of the new arts and humanities building. Made up of more than 1,000 faces in silhouette of students, faculty, staff and community members, the artwork will be comprised of 84 vertical steel planes perpendicular to Second Street. Each 11-foot tall plane or “totem” will include 12 unique profiles. The artists will conduct several community events in mid-March, during which participants will be photographed in profile and the images used to create the series of silhouettes for each totem.

“We felt that the idea of inclusivity should be key to the creation of our artwork,” the artists wrote in their project proposal. “We liked the notion of a totem. Totems are symbols for a family or a tribe and the figures themselves are representations of a community. In many ways, ‘Facewall’ is about reflecting the vibrant community that makes up Chico. We hope that these individuals will stand like totems on the facade of the arts and humanities building, quietly watching over the equally diverse group of people who will see it every day.”

The site presented a distinct opportunity for the artists to consider the use of light in the work, natural and artificial. The design of “Facewall” directly utilizes the southwest-facing façade, which receives approximately six hours of direct sunlight each day, to generate a rich shadow texture on the surface of the wall. The spacing between each totem will produce shadows on neighboring planes, making the experience of seeing the work perpetually new. At night, down-lighting will create similar effects.

In March and April 2014, the Campus Public Arts Committee—made up of faculty, staff and administrators—solicited qualifications from artists to create a unique work of art for the new arts and humanities building. Over 120 applications were received from local, regional and national artists. The committee carefully reviewed the submissions, evaluating each on aesthetic appeal and quality of past work; innovation, exemplified by past work; public art experience; and quality of presentation.

Five artists and artist teams were selected by the Campus Public Arts Committee to develop detailed concept proposals for the sites. The selected finalists were Gordon Huether, Napa, California; Krivanek/Breaux, Chicago, Illinois; Koryn Rolstad, Seattle, Washington; Roger Stoller, Portola Valley, California; and Walczak & Heiss, New York and Allentown, Pennsylvania. The finalists presented their proposals in mid-September to the Campus Public Arts Committee, President Paul Zingg and members of the Campus Planning Committee. All project proposals were made available for public comment on the university website Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, 2014.

The new arts and humanities building will feature several public arts works, including a new “Academe,” the landmark mural painted by John Pugh on the former Taylor Hall. The mural will be installed at the northeast corner of the new building, facing the Salem Street roundabout.

“The public arts committee dedicated many hours reviewing submissions, selecting finalists and choosing the final concept,” Zingg said. “Because of the prominence of the building and the artwork’s location, we felt the artwork needed to convey a sense of place and purpose. Unlike many campuses, Chico State is distinct because of its proximity to downtown. When completed in 2016, the arts and humanities building will become a gateway to the campus and a hub for creativity. ‘Facewall’ will invite viewers to pause and consider the individuals who make our community so special. Through the movement of light and shadow, ‘Facewall’ will appear to change, even though the profiles are static. It will be a powerful visual metaphor for the relationship of people, place and purpose.”