Interactive Sculpture to Honor Founder of St. Louis’ Center of Creative Arts

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Giving sculpture a soundtrack and setting it aglow with theatrical lighting, Jill Downen + act3 creates a unique experience for visitors to the Center of Creative Arts in St. Louis.

On Friday, October 1, 2010, the switch will be flipped, and curious visitors to the Center of Creative Arts’ two-story atrium in University City, Missouri, will finally find out what those waves on the wall are all about. That night, Currents, an interactive installation created by Jill Downen + act3, will be revealed.

The permanent sculpture installation will transform the COCA atrium wall into an undulating sculpture whose subtle, elegant movements call to mind the currents of a river and suggest the impact the creative arts have on diverse communities through the experiences of their students. Original soundscape compositions and coordinated theatrical lighting will wash the installation in sound, color, and light. The audio and LED lights will be sensor-activated, set off by visitors in the space, meaning that visitors will be able to change the experience of the piece by how they interact with it.

“The interactive element takes this piece beyond its individual components of sculpture, sound, and light, and turns it into experience design,” said act3 Principal Ben Kaplan. “The viewers of the piece will bring it to life with their presence.”

Currents was chosen from a field of 60 national and international artists in a competition held earlier this year. The concept and design were developed by Jill Downen + act3, a collaboration between sculptor and visual artist Jill Downen and interdisciplinary design studio act3.

“Currents captures the spirit of COCA,” said project manager and former COCA education director, Kathryn Adamchick, “the ripple-like forms suggest the impact COCA has had on the St. Louis community since its inception 23 years ago, and the Jill Downen + act3 team celebrates interdisciplinary collaboration.” While Downen and act3 have previously worked together on a number of projects, this is their first collaboration of this type and scale.

Like all installation art, Downen and act3 won’t see the final piece for the first time until the scaffolding comes down. “We’ll perceive the installation at the moment it’s completed, along with all the other viewers,” said Downen. “The process is almost like carrying a baby, and at the moment the installation is finished, the baby is born. It’s like ‘Oh, that’s what you look like. I’ve been waiting to see your face.’”

The commissioned artwork will honor COCA’s founding executive director, Stephanie Riven, who will retire in 2010. The founding vision was to create a place where people of diverse interests and backgrounds could have access to the highest quality artistic experience.

Jill Downen + act3 are keeping a blog that lets viewers peek behind-the-scenes at the design, concepting, fabrication, and installation process at http://www.downen-act3.com/.

About Jill Downen + act3

Jill Downen + act3 is a collaboration between sculptor and visual artist Jill Downen and interdisciplinary design studio act3. Downen is a 2010 recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2009 she received a John and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation travel grant as a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, and a winner of the inaugural Great Rivers Biennial Visual Awards Program presented by Gateway Foundation and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in 2004. She is represented by Bruno David Gallery, and her work can be seen at http://www.jilldownen.com/.

act3 is an interdisciplinary design studio that helps organizations identify and tell their stories. Led by principals Ben Kaplan and Eric Ratinoff, act3 has worked with a number of St. Louis arts institutions, including Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Metro Theater Company, and Citygarden, as well as a wide range of national and local companies. Their work has been recognized by the Telly Awards, the AIGA, the American Advertising Federation, Communication Arts Magazine, and the Flash Film Festival, and has been screened at the St. Louis International Film Festival. Their work can be seen at http://www.act3studio.com/.

About COCA

Housed in a 60,000 square foot building designed by world-renowned architect Eric Mendelsohn, the Center of Creative Arts serves over 50,000 participants annually. COCA’s multidisciplinary and multicultural programs include performances, classes, camps, workshops, artist residencies, exhibitions, and school outreach programs.

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Eric Ratinoff
Jill Downen + act3
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