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Love of moving water leads Physics major to art competition win

"The Wave," by Benjamin Luck, winner of the 2013 Art in the Library compeititon

"The Wave," by Benjamin Luck, as installed in Reed Library.

“I have always been curious about patterns present in the natural world and have been lucky enough to spend much of my life venturing outside, observing and contemplating, lost in wonder at the complexity and mysterious beauty surrounding us,” says Ben Luck, a senior Physics major from Ketchum, Idaho.

“Somewhere along the line, probably due to the inordinate amount of time I spend thinking about moving water, I became interested in waves and the role that periodic functions play in describing the physical world,” says Luck, who is also an expert kayaker who has paddled some of the most remote rivers in the world.

Luck is describing “The Wave,” his public art installment that is the 2013 winner of the Annual Art in the Library Student Competition. The kinetic sculpture's exhibit will be on display in Reed Library until the end of the Spring semester.

“Waves are ubiquitous in our reality,” Luck explains. “Waves are easily recognized in nature, but we perhaps don’t sense their omnipresence, their sweeping mathematic elegance, the common thread that they weave through our lives. For me, the process of designing and building a mechanical wave was an interesting way to relate to the infinite complexity of the universe.”

The Art in the Library Competition is a partnership between Reed Library and the Art Department. A call for proposals goes out in September, and a five-member selection committee comprised of two Library employees, an Art Department faculty member, a student representative, and a Durango art community representative selects the next year's featured student artist.

The winner receives a $500 grant to complete the project, which is installed in the Library at the end of the Spring term, and remains on display for a full year.

“This student art competition provides students with real-world experience,” says Library Director Astrid Oliver. “The Library and campus benefit by being able to showcase the excellent work of our students and providing a means to support their artistic endeavors.”

The Art Department also supplies a faculty mentor to guide and oversee the project. For the past three years, Associate Professor of Art Jay Dougan, a specialist in public art projects who was instrumental in initiating the art competition, has served in this role.

"I wanted students to have opportunities for practice at the process of putting together a professional public art piece -- creating a resume and an artist's statement, writing a proposal, setting up a budget, meeting deadlines, and dealing with the processes,” Dougan explains. “It's important stuff for professional artists. It gets them ready for jobs, gallery shows, and juried competitions. And they sign a contract that says they'll get this done, so it's real experience.”

“Also, you've got to have thick skin and put yourself in front of people,” he adds. “So this exhibit validates what the students do.”

Dougan also points out that, true to FLC's liberal arts tradition, the competition is open to all students, not just Art majors. Case in point, this year's winner being a Physics major.

“We're a liberal arts college, and that's why I love to teach here," he says. "I enjoy having dialogue with Engineering and Anthropology students. In my ceramics class, I've had a Geoscience student who knows about clays and gets excited about the glazing process, which has inspired our Art students think about that medium differently.”
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