“Student Bodies” dedicated during centennial celebration
WILLIAMSPORT – As part of its Centennial anniversary, Pennsylvania College of Technology welcomed 78 new students this fall, many of which just might be around for the institution’s bicentennial.
Some of these ‘freshmen’ could sustain a broken body part, and others might corrode. But if welding majors, faculty and staff did their job correctly, the “Student Bodies” Centennial Sculpture will be still standing in 2114.
Augmenting the campus mall, the large-scale project features 78 abstract human forms made of scrap-metal pieces welded together. The college formally dedicated “Student Bodies” during last weekend’s homecoming festivities. It’s the third recent art installation meant to enrich the college’s outdoor environment.
President Davie Jane Gilmour initiated the project two years ago when she asked metal sculptor and welding instructor Michael K. Patterson to submit design ideas for an art piece to help commemorate the college’s Centennial anniversary.
“I just came up with this wild idea about having a bunch of abstract human forms walking down the middle of campus,” said Patterson, “and ‘Student Bodies’ was born.”
During the past year, Patterson and approximately 50 welding students used 7,000 pounds of scrap metal to create the 78 life-size structures. Some took four hours to make; others consumed nearly a year. Most weigh about 80 pounds; one tops the scale at 350 pounds. All are distinctive in their own way.
“Before they even touched the steel, the students had to visualize a structure resembling a human being,”Patterson said. “Then they were presented with a pile of steel and had to convert the design into a tangible shape by welding it all together. I stressed to them that these have to be 100-year welds.”
The most challenging part was applying 100-year welds. “I had a couple parts snap off in the making,” said welding technology major Patricia A. Hintz, of Muncy. “What I enjoyed most was seeing all the things that are possible with metal. Beautiful, intricate art was made with scrap metal that the school was going to throw away,” she said.
The figures are organized into six sections spanning the campus mall.
All of the students worked on the project outside of class. Patterson believes the welding majors enhanced their skill set because the nature of the project forced them outside their comfort zone.
“I was kneeling. I was sitting on the floor. And a few times I was even laying on the floor,” Hintz said.
The college’s General Services staff also contributed to the “Student Bodies” experience. Seven individuals, led by Andrea L. Mull, horticulturist/motor pool supervisor, and Chad L. Karstetter, horticulturist/motor pool lead person, were responsible for preparing concrete slabs, installing the figures and spreading 60 tons of stone to complement the sculptures.
“It was one of the craziest welding jobs I’ve ever been on,” said Patterson, who spent several years welding for the National Science Foundation in Antarctica. “I’ve never done anything where I had to personally coordinate so many people, material, substances and time. It was very exciting.”
Welding & fabrication engineering technology major Matthew H. Gordon, of Milton, summarized the most exciting aspect of the project for him and his classmates. “No matter when I come back and visit over the years, my work will be there,” he said. “No matter what happens in life, this art will still be there with my name on some of them.”