UM-Flint Art Students' Work Impacts Community

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Flint Public Art Project and UM-Flint Art & Art History partnership
Flint Public Art Project and UM-Flint Art & Art History partnership

The Flint Public Art Project (FPAP) recently reached out to UM-Flint Assistant Professor Benjamin Gaydos to see if his students would be able to help them with their last public art parade of the season, Oct. 6, and now nine of his students are about to see what their artwork can mean to the community.

Gaydos teaches a class called Design Studio, and its focus is to create opportunities for students to collaborate together with community partners on local design problems. Having the opportunity to take their work beyond the classroom, Gaydos said, creates a number of benefits for the students.

"Design Studio is all about giving students the opportunity to work in real-world scenarios with clients and hopefully to see the impact of the work," he said. "So often it's all about getting the grade and they're not beholden to anyone else. With Design Studio that's not how it works. It doesn't work unless they're collaborating. They buy in immediately."

The class will be building an art installation at Potter Longway Park in Flint, the starting and ending point of FPAP's last art parade of the season.

The art parades are pretty much exactly what they sound like: a group of artists ranging from musicians to visual artists, tromp through different neighborhoods to give the residents a good show and to help unify their community.

Gaydos' students played around with lots of ideas—from kites to paper lanterns, and settled on creating an installation made of flagging tape. It will have a similar visual effect to all those kite strings (in the end, they decided building the necessary number of kites for what they were going for would take more time than they had) as they will be tied to the dugout of one of the park's baseball diamonds. While the tape will be attached to different parts of the structure, they will all converge to the same point.

"So this idea of converging perspectives, converging points, connection with your neighbors, and that's really what the neighborhood art parade does," Gaydos said. "That's the theme, it's about bringing people together."

It's not the first time the students in that class have been able to see their work on display. That, in fact, is what his course is all about. Over the past four years his students have seen their collaborative creativity transform parks and libraries and other institutions throughout Flint. They've made sculptures for potted plants, various kinds of graphic design, and interior design and architectural projects.

It's an opportunity for students to get real-world experience with their design, but for Gaydos, it also fulfills part of UM-Flint's mission to engage with the community.

"Our third pillar at the university is engaged citizenship, which I wholeheartedly believe in," he said, adding that he thinks that's especially true in a struggling city like Flint. "It's our duty as a university to be involved in creating positive change."

The parade is Thursday, Oct. 6. It will begin at 5:50 p.m. from Longway Park, located on Averill Ave., just north of Davison Road.

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