Student metalwork answers the call for needed art at area business
A local business that works with college students now has artwork created by UWL students.
Three Sixty Real Estate Solutions, which owns and rents property in La Crosse and Onalaska, is displaying metal sculptures created by students in Associate Professor Brad Nichols’ advanced art classes. The work was commissioned for the company’s main offices in Aguilera, 1243 Badger St.
Nichols has known 360 owner Marvin Wanders since Nichols was a student on campus in the early ’90s, and Wanders was an upperclassman and assistant wrestling coach. Wanders contacted Nichols last year with the idea of students creating “motivational” artwork for his new office. Wanders felt the works would be extremely meaningful, since students represent a large percentage of their clientele.
“He was interested in artwork that incorporated motivational quotes that represent their culture and have a good selection of diversity,” explains Nichols. Quotes for the pieces were selected by the 360 staff.
Nichols’ two advanced art classes, “ART 425: Perspectives in Art” and “ART 323: Intermediate Blacksmithing,” took on the unique project. Nichols says work like this gives practical art-making experience outside of the classroom and is extremely beneficial to students.
“They gain experience working with clients, designing site-specific concepts, along with creating and understanding a budget for materials and labor,” Nichols says.
The students also had an opportunity to work with other fabrication shops, like Architectural Metal Specialists (AMS) in Onalaska. Nichols says the students especially enjoyed working with AMS, that has specialized water-jet cutting equipment that is extremely accurate for cutting shapes from metal sheets and plates. The students created digital designs and fonts that AMS cut out of sheet metal for some of the components of the artwork.
“Brian Baker and Justin Mullikin at AMS were amazing to work with,” says Nichols. “They were extremely helpful and patient with our unfamiliarity of the software needed to transfer images to the water jet.”
Nichols is very proud and impressed with the quality of work his students produced. “This was a very challenging project, both conceptually and technically,” he notes. “Each work of art is so unique.”
The project also fits well with the university’s strategic plan initiative to increase UWL’s engagement with the community.
Nichols greatly appreciates the opportunity to work with 360 Real Estate Solutions on the project. “Marvin was extremely open and flexible with the design process,” says Nichols. “He really trusted the student’s ability and allowed them to be creative.”
Nichols says this isn’t the first time his metalsmithing students have worked for an off-campus project. In spring 2015 the UWL Athletics Department sought students to create a sign for its Building Champions Trail in Hixon Forest. Students in Nichols’ “ART 332: Intermediate Blacksmithing” received an array of practical experience with their proposals reviewed by UWL Athletics and the City of La Crosse Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department, which selected Casey Liston’s design.
The artwork will be recognized during an artists’ reception at 360’s Offices, 1243 Badger St., from 5-6 p.m. Tuesday, March 6.