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Athens News Matters: A new art installation at UGA explores the intersection of engineering and art

“We want to be a college where we see engineering as the intersection of a lot of different disciplines and that’s been a focus of what we’ve tried to do at the College of Engineering since it started 10 years ago,” says Dr. Donald Leo, Dean of the College of Engineering at UGA.

At first glance, this might seem a world away from the visual arts. Engineering is precise, art is inspiring. But look deeper and you’ll find these two disciplines have a lot in common. Both require intense study and dedication to create things that last a lifetime.

Dean Leo met with me in Driftmier Engineering Center where students bustle about going to classes and working collaboratively in common spaces afforded by the ongoing renovations in the building.

It’s this spirit of collaboration that inspired a physical representation of the intersection of Engineering and Art. Mike Wooten, the Director of Communications at the College of Engineering, says that Athens-area artists Jan Perkins was commissioned to create mixed media panels "for the College of Engineering to illustrate the different types of research and student learning projects that are happening in the college.”

Artist Jan Perkins was initially inspired by the opening of phase 1 renovations in the building, which has been updated in an industrial style that includes glass study pods, metal, and stone.

Perkins explains the innovative process she used to create the work. “Technically, the process requires...once you work on the computer, paint on the computer, and layer imagery on the computer, it requires a transfer of imagery from the computer onto some sort of media. But for this project, I developed a transfer printing process onto fine raw silk. And this ultra-fine silk is ultimately printed on and then adhered in panels, or strips, if you will, to the art panel. And it's used as a template guide because it's ultra-sheer. And from there, once it's adhered permanently to a gessoed surface, from there, the oil paint and cold wax, which was my medium of choice on this project, is applied in multiple layers."

The 9 panel permanent collection hangs in the center hallway on the first floor of Driftmier Engineering Center in the bustling hub of student activity. While I toured the area with Dean Leo, he said, "You'll notice each of the panels represents a different part of our college that, honestly, Jan just got excited about...it's nice to see that all of the panels have a personal story, but then, in addition, there's an intentionality among all 9 of them that represents all the different aspects of our college.”

Artist Jan Perkins says she just feels honored to be part of the project. "As difficult as this covid period of two years has been for everyone, this was a fabulous project for me to have during the time of covid…it kept me incredibly engaged and for that I’m really grateful.”

Cathy joined WUGA in 2017 as Business Manager. She comes from South Carolina Public Radio with over a decade experience, having worked as production manager for multiple national programs, host of a daily program and traffic manager for a statewide radio network.