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Art project builds bridges and partnerships

Lyndsey Pethel, Christy Packard and Sun Zhehao watch as another student looks over the bridge they constructed for a 3-D art class.

A 3-D art class at the University of North Georgia (UNG) required students to build bridges – literally and figuratively – as the class learned about collaborative design and functionality.

Alex Kraft, professor of 3-D art and ceramics on UNG's Dahlonega Campus, designed the assignment to enhance the skills her students have gained thus far during the semester. The project also reinforced UNG’s emphasis on teamwork and collaboration, which are integral to the university’s academic mission and designation by the University System of Georgia as a state leadership institution.

"Collaboration was one of the most difficult parts of the project," said sophomore Lyndsey Pethel.

Pethel was part of a diverse trio; she is a traditional student, Christy Packard is a nontraditional student, and Sun Zhehao is an international student visiting UNG from China. Though their backgrounds and personal styles differed greatly, they produced the most well-received bridge in the class.

The trio began with very different sketches, but all three initial designs were unified by an arch feature.

"We decided to use the arch then and do what was best for the bridge, rather than what I wanted or any of us had originally envisioned," Pethel said.

Kraft was very open to students' varying interpretations of the bridges. Minimalistic, original designs, modern interpretations of existing bridges, and abstract representation were all demonstrated by the class. Each bridge was required to span two table tops set 24 inches apart and, at the apex, support a weight of 25 pounds. The students used a combination of cardboard, glue, paper and paint to shape and reinforce the structures.

"The class aims to teach them to work with different materials, and they learn basic aesthetics, construction methods and terminology to help them evaluate the art they produce as well as constructively critique their classmates," Kraft said.

When the student groups presented their work, one group evaluated another group's bridge on design elements, craftsmanship, and concept. The group that produced the bridge was able to respond to the critiques and create a dialogue surrounding the piece.

Pethel, Packard and Sun's bridge reflected a very industrial, literal aesthetic.

"It's something you'd expect to see in a city. You can imagine the energy and dynamic lives of the people around the bridge," one classmate commented.

Pethel said her group found it difficult to work with the cardboard.

"It is just cardboard, so it's hard to cut clean edges," she said. "It takes a long time to glue sheets together and make sure they're dry before moving forward. Also it took multiple trips to the store for all the materials at the varying stages, so getting started early really gave us an advantage."

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