SkyLINK & Infinite Welcome

Submitted by Brad Oldham Sculpture

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Client: Greensboro Children's Museum

Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Completion date: 2017

Artwork budget: $120,625

Project Team

Artist

Brad Oldham

Brad Oldham Sculpture

Artist

Brad Oldham

Brad Oldham Sculpture

Artist

Christy Coltrin

Brad Oldham Sculpture

Overview

“SkyLINK” is a stainless steel sculpture featuring three links stacked one atop of another to form a pathway to the skies above Greensboro. The winged “SpaceBIRD” sculptures work together to create this foundation to the sky. A fourth link is partially revealed near the installation to represent the emerging materials for learning, and to recognize donors of this installation. The cooperation, imagination, and ingenuity shown in this scene are meant to spark the same in viewers. About 100 yards from this sculpture is a second installation, “Infinite Welcome”, that reinforces and expands the messages presented in “SkyLINK”.

Goals

The commission goal was to create an inclusive sense of arrival to Greensboro Children’s Museum to spark creativity and a love of learning. The 19-foot-tall "SkyLINK" stands near the museum’s main entrance on a turfed mound with strong viewpoints from downtown pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

A new character was born in this commission - "SpaceBIRD" has two cousins from our previous installations, "BIRD" and "SkaterBIRD", that respectively represent the souls of the artists, entrepreneurs, and musicians who build creative neighborhoods and the leap of faith those people take everyday. SpaceBIRD builds upon these stories to encourage us to boldly reach beyond our limits – and have fun along the way.

The museum leadership asked us to reimagine an existing steel structure of unknown origin. We painted the steel blue and moved the 38-foot-tall piece to greet visitors from the street and parking lot and attract interest from the park across the street. A series of hand-formed and polished stainless steel dots and dashes lead up the leg of the piece to a "SpaceBIRD" viewing the work in progress on "SkyLINK" near the main entrance. A message - “Everyone is Welcome” – appears in Morse code on "Infinite Welcome".

Process

After meeting with the museum’s leadership and touring of the facility, our creative process found initial footing in poetry. The tone was established in an original poem we wrote that melodically wove the unique details and happenings of the museum together to evoke a feeling that guided our process.

Our creative concepts were pencil-sketched and fine-tuned using a combination of hand sculpting a clay model and rendering the artwork using 3D modeling software. Next, the fabrication of the sculpture followed a time-honored path in creating handmade sculpture.

"SpaceBIRD" was sculpted at full size in clay over which a fiberglass mold was made. Then, 316 stainless steel sheets were hammered into the mold and tig welded together. Each "SpaceBIRD" was hand polished to a mirror-like finish. Each dash and dot in the Morse code message was made the same way. The links were fabricated using 304 stainless steel tubing for the internal structure, over which stainless steel sheet was hammered into shape to create a skin. The rivets were added as a design detail. We also built a custom base to cover the bolts needed to secure the sculpture onto the concrete pad that we poured on site.

Additional Information

Near the donor link emerging from the ground in "SkyLINK", we created a stand-alone, three-foot-tall pipe to house a time capsule and elevate the artist plaque for the installation. The time capsule will be opened in 100 years. It contains our initial sketches, the original poem, drawings by children who visited the museum, and thoughts from leadership and donors.