Glass artist's polymer tower to stand at UA

The glass man is going plastic in the Rubber City.Sometime this year, a towering polymer sculpture -- made by acclaimed glass artist Dale Chihuly -- will take shape at the University of Akron.

The proposed outdoor sculpture -- a pet project of polymer science and engineering Dean Frank Kelley for more than three years -- has attracted enough private donations to become a reality, university officials said Wednesday.Chihuly, who will receive $315,000 for the piece, has worked with polymers before.But the abstract artwork planned for Akron will be one of the first times the internationally known artist has worked with them -- plastic in this case -- on such a big scale. Polymers allow Chihuly to make a glass-like sculpture that will stand up to the weather.

At the University of Akron, the tower of crystal-like shapes -- resembling rock candy on a stick -- will rise 30 feet above a 10-foot pedestal.

Kelley is hoping for installation by late summer outside UA's Goodyear Polymer Center, which is home to one of the most prestigious polymer science programs in the world.

Intrigued with the convergence of art and science, Kelley has long envisioned a sculpture in the middle of the grass circle in front of the glass-walled polymer center.

Kelley said the blue-green piece is an ``abstract sculpture, but polymer professionals would recognize randomness and repetitiveness -- features of polymers -- in the design.''

The total project budget -- including the cost of the concrete base and shipping -- is $340,500. Donations from private contributors total $265,000. UA's College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering is paying the remaining $75,500.

Donors include Mary Myers, a benefactor of the university and the Akron Art Museum; and Fairlawn plastics compounder A. Schulman Inc. The company makes a wide line of plastics that wind up in products from auto bumpers to swizzle sticks to artificial turf.

University officials are excited about an artist of Chihuly's stature creating a piece for the area that demonstrates the artistic possibilities of polymers.

Christina DePaul, former director of the University of Akron Mary Schiller Myers School of Art, knows Chihuly, who has a studio in Seattle, and began talking with him in 2000 about creating a piece for the campus. In June 2001, Kelley said he had begun talking to art patrons about funding the project. That year, Kelley said the synthetic material would have to be resistant to sunlight and be able to withstand Ohio's unpredictable weather.

Ted Curtis, the university's vice president for capital planning and facilities management, said Wednesday that sometime after the sculpture is installed it may be lighted at night.

University trustees approved the project at their meeting Wednesday.

Chihuly's work is extremely popular. An exhibit of Chihuly pieces including an immense Laguna Murano chandelier, a five-part, blown-glass work broke attendance records during its stay at the Akron Art Museum in 1999. Chihuly created the Bridge of Glass featuring towers made of a polyurethane material for his hometown of Tacoma, Wash. The pedestrian bridge which crosses Interstate 705 and links the Washington State History Museum with the Museum of Glass opened in 2002. Arthur Andersson of Andersson Wise Architects helped to design it.

600450 Glass artist's polymer tower to stand at UA

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