Client: University of Wisconsin, River Falls, Student Center
Location: River Falls, WI, United States
Completion date: 2010
Artwork budget: $15,000
Bonnie Rubinstein Studio
University of Wisconsin, River Falls
The challenge- How to ‘float’ a 20′ river of glass off a soft stone wall, and convince a university it can happen? Inspired by the Kinnickinnic River, flowing through the heart of the campus, Bonnie presented her concept to UWRF. The art is installed at the Student Center, which was the most sustainable U.S. student building when constructed. The lounge had a bare 2-story stone wall in need of art. Bonnie had seen this wall, and envisioned a river flowing down, sketched her ideas and presented it to the school, which sparked their interest.
The Student Center at the University was funded with student support, and the school administration felt a gifted piece of artwork was appropriate and warranted in appreciation of the students’ green commitment. The lounge in the Center serves as a major and popular interior public space where many student meetings are held, both academic and social. Many lectures and conferences are held in rooms off the upper floor balcony, which overlooks the lounge and artwork. The glass sculpture is the major art feature in the building, enjoyed by students, faculty, and community. The layers of blue and aqua glass elements, and their depth, are reflective and visually dynamic, yet the sense of flowing water provides a calming environment.
The second challenge: how to create ‘water’ without water! Bonnie spent time creating several glass samples showing the way the glass could be ‘waterlike’, and presenting the samples and sketches to the University. Following the approval process, the 4 month glass-making endeavor began. The art was to be 20’ tall, but the glass kiln was only 4’ long. To accomplish the appearance of a consistent flowing body of water, Bonnie designed the art to be divided into 8 panels, so that the colors and shapes appeared to flow from one panel to the next. The integration of glass in shades of blue, aqua, ‘bubbles’, and river bank stones and grasses contribute to the river’s illusion. The next challenge was to hang the glass without drilling into the locally quarried sandstone wall, only into the grout lines. With an natural, irregular edge, making this happen kept the artist awake at night! Once she researched the best anchors to use, the school constructed scaffolding and used their installation team to carefully place art templates Bonnie had made. In this manner, the exact drill points were determined, and the anchors were placed. Patience was critical!
Bonnie felt privileged to have been chosen to create a piece of art this significant in her adopted hometown. River Fusion has been featured in design magazines and local media. The response has been very gratifying.