Client: Lakes Region Community College
Location: Laconia, NH, United States
Completion date: 2016
Mystic Scenic Studios
In 2014 the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts commissioned Maine artist, Cynthia Thompson, to design, fabricate, and install a tension-fabric installation in the Academic Commons at Lakes Region Community College in Laconia, NH.
Thompson designed Aqua Vibrant, an 80’ x 15’ tension fabric sculpture to occupy the overhead space of the Academic Commons, an 85-foot long room connecting two classroom buildings. Aqua Vibrant celebrates and takes inspiration from nearby Lake Winnipesaukee and New Hampshire’s Lakes Region. The piece is hand-painted on tension-mesh fabric and supported in part by aluminum tubing. It was completed in the summer of 2016.
Thompson’s art is all about transforming spaces into humane experiences through the medium of fabric. Fabric dampens sound and its curves remind of natural forms. She seeks to create environments of tranquility and well-being: light and airy, alive yet quiet and secure.
For the college, Thompson proposed a ceiling/wall fabric sculpture portraying the essence of water. The college being in the heart of the Lakes Region, water comes to mind as a vital force in the community. The sculpture evokes the wild rivers and streams of the Lakes Region. It undulates across the ceiling above the beams, from the windows to the doorway, and down the wall above the door.
With "Aqua Vibrant,” Thompson’s intent is to trigger the energy and vibrancy of the community college with this abstract river emulating the lakes, rivers, and streams of the region. It is placed in the Academic Commons to inspire students to great achievements in their own communities, whether in the Lakes Region or beyond.
Thompson’s desire to create a seamless fluid sculpture governed her selection of materials. For example, rather than using a stretch mesh that is readily available domestically, yet only in a 10’ width, Thompson searched for a wider mesh and found what she was looking for with ShowTex, a Belgium-based manufacturer of theatrical fabrics. The owners of ShowTex were kind enough to subsidize the purchase of fabric for this public art installation.
Thompson recognized that the look and feel she wanted to convey could not be printed on her material of choice. Her design would have to be hand painted on the tension-mesh fabric. Thompson’s search for how and where to paint “Aqua Vibrant” led to Mystic Scenic Studios, in Norwood, MA, and to their head scenic painter, Rebecca Warde. Rebecca patiently spent an entire week discussing the project with Thompson, choosing the correct paint, lofting her scale drawing up to full size, and painting the fabric under Thompson’s direction. The hand-painted “Aqua Vibrant” is beautifully “vibrant” while also possessing the natural qualities of a hand-shaped form.
In addition to its location-based artistic expression, Thompson designed "Aqua Vibrant" to meet the practical parameters of a commercial installation in a public assembly space. The fabric is durable and fire-retardant to meet architectural standards and life-safety code. The framework is aluminum with custom machined joinery. All materials are lightweight, which made the piece’s post-construction installation within the existing structure possible, and come from recycled (and recyclable) materials. Regular maintenance, by blowing dust off the sculpture, is easy to do. The fabric is washable, and if vandalized, the design and the pattern are preserved in order to fabricate a replacement.