The “spaghetti” sculpture that graced the lawn of the Blanton. The Red Swing Project. Play Me, I’m Yours. The CowParade. Art on the Green. All of these public art projects have offered us parents amazing opportunities to take children to interact with, experience and learn about art. Yes, paintings in a museum certainly have their place, but the ability of children (and adults) to experience visual art need not be limited to what we can find hanging inside a building.
Enter Art On the Way (AOTW), a nonprofit founded by Ateiler 3-D partners Steve Dubov, Heather Tolleson and Terry Wilemon. The mission of Art On the Way is to transform underutilized spaces in Austin into sites for contemporary sculpture. With two installations which have been completed and another currently on the lawn of GSD&M, AOTW founders envision a drive-through museum in the future, with rotating works of art that the community will select.
Art On the Way hopes to encourage a dialogue around art, answering questions such as: What is the value of public art? What is art, in the first place? Does it enrich your life? Heather Tolleson feels that Austin is a great place for Art On the Way, with our evolving art scene, our outdoor lifestyle and an eclectic community which is open to art of all kinds. As Heather explained to me, AOTW is a “way of getting people who may never walk into museum of their own accord to be confronted with contemporary art and to have that discussion…we want that discussion to come to all classes of people.”
Heather Tolleson is the artist behind Art On the Way’s current project, Spiral Plexus. Spiral Plexus is composed of 2,000 acrylic windspinners and thousands of hooks, springs and swivels, all connected to steel armature, but in a constant state of motion. Originally, four colors of spinners graced the sculpture, but now the colors have mostly faded in the Texas sun, making the mirroring quality of the piece more brilliant. Over 30 volunteers helped put the piece together, including a seven-year-old who provided Heather with a children’s perspective on how to distribute color among the spinners.
Heather made Spiral Plexus with children and families in mind. She wanted the piece to be interactive, eye-catching, fun and whimsical. Heather loves to watch children visit the piece and see them blow and tap on it. Heather specializes in large-scale mixed media installations and freepour bronze sculptures, so this project challenged Heather to experiment with different materials and to create a piece that is practical for a public space.
Although Spiral Plexus will be on display on the lawn at GSD&M until June 9th, Heather is looking for a permanent home for the sculpture at a facility that serves children. When she was a child, Heather spent lots of time in hospitals with a chronic illness. The visual art in the facilities where she spent time as a child really stood out against the sometimes bleak and colorless spaces.
I loved to watch my son approach Spiral Plexus, in a sense becoming a part of it and this larger conversation about art and people and how they can engage each other.
Spiral PlexusArtist: Heather Tolleson
Location: GSD&M, 828 West 6th Street; Austin, TX 78703
Date: March 11-June 9, 2012
A Sculptor’s Studio, offering classes for adults and teens and open studio
701 Tillery St., Studio A-12; Austin, TX 78702
Written by: Nicole Basham
First photo courtesy of Art On the Way