Client: Central Oregon Community College
Location: Bend, OR, United States
Completion date: 2012
Artwork budget: $30,000
Cleaning House is a stylized, but medically accurate, representation of part of the human immune system identifying and destroying foreign objects. The COCC Health Careers Center trains nurses, dental techs, massage therapists and other practitioners whose goal is to help keep us healthy. This suspended sculpture is a model of healthy blood cells flowing through capillaries at 35,000X magnification while three white blood cell macrophages attack bacteria –cleaning house– and keeping us healthy. An accompanying wall panel was developed with scientific advisors to help explain basic immunology and the wonder of how our blood functions on a microscopic level.
The Health Careers Center was built to educate a wide variety of health care professionals from nurses to massage therapists and pharmacy technicians. We sought to identify a common mission that could create an identity for the building. After much research and discussion, we felt that what united these disparate programs was the shared goal of restoring the body’s natural ability to maintain health. This sculpture was our way of manifesting the hidden mechanisms that underlay the various practices that the students were learning.
We also sought to frame our creation within the context of the building’s sight lines and axes. The large, glass curtain wall framed views of the natural environment that surrounded the campus and was an important draw to many of the students. The materials we selected created a kind of transparency to our forms that played off the natural lighting and airiness of the space. The rich colors provided an important counterpoint to the neutral tones of the rest of the interior and focused the energy on this area where students gathered and the greater community would come for medical services.
There was no prescribed process for collaboration between the artists and the architects or designers. The building had already been designed and we were brought into the process after most of the construction had been completed. We were informed that the school’s public art program was meant to provoke and inspire the students. It was considered a part of the educational environment and therefore was to have a strong point of view. We saw this opportunity as our chance to reflect, as artists, on what we saw happening at the school and in this building. Frankly, we felt that it was an amazing study in trust for the college to allow us to make such a bold mark on a building that represented a major investment by the school and community.