Friday, September 7, 2012


Pillsbury House has announced the first round of awards for artistic placemaking projects chosen to launch their “Arts on Chicago” project, and we are pleased to report that CAFAC is on the list!

Our project is a mural installation on the north wall of our building near 38th and Chicago. It’s the studio entrance for students and volunteers, and currently about one hundred feet of boring white wall. The mural, design by local muralist Andrew Broder, combines elements of the building’s movie theater history with a nod to the fiery work being produced in our studio. It will incorporate sculptural metal pieces and interactive LED elements fabricated by youth currently incarcerated at the Hennepin County Home School (HCHS).

Last week the guys from HCHS were in our studio. Most of them were nearing the end of their incarceration and had walked through the four step process of accepting RESPONSIBILITY for what they had done to find themselves there, approaching life with INTEGRITY moving forward, finding EMPATHY for those they had wronged and RENEWing their resolve to begin again. Those steps were the themes for their sculptural challenge. They used a deconstructed Archimedean solid as an analogy for every human being having what it takes to be a solid person but it being every person’s choice to do so.

I was amazed by their creativity and the depth of their understanding. The concepts they came up with were:

Rendered as a tornado. All of them felt that at some point their lives had spun out of their control. But they chose to render the vortex as a path made of all the pieces in a row and formed into a spiral. Their responsibility was to follow it out of the chaos. Deep.

Rendered as a man sitting on the ground, head in hands considering his path and how to move forward with integrity. It was cool to see our volunteer fabrication coordinator, Brad Buxton, take this opportunity to talk to the guys about being a craftsman and taking pride in your work. He showed them the right tools to use and the geometry to calculate the hexagon’s dimensions so that the pieces would all fit together as designed. They listened and fabricated to specification.

A flower designed by a Lakota youth who also wrote the word “empathy” in his native language at the center of his design with the plasma cutter. I can’t wait to see the light emanating from that flower.

The form fully constructed. Ready to be a part of something, solid as a stone.

A group of women from HCHS will be here in a few weeks. They will be working with our electrician, John Stretch of Stretch Electric, and CAFAC’s Arduino instructor, Jeff Whaley. The girls, also juvenile felons, will get to have their hands on the tools of these trades. They will be creating an elaborate conduit tubing design as well as the LED array that will (we hope), respond to its environment in some way. It should be a blast.

Look for the mural painting to start next week and the sculptural forms and LED elements to evolve over the next couple of months.

I love my job.

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