A sculpture project that was years in the making is finally complete. On Friday, July 13, 2018, Associate Professor Jesse Walp put the finishing touches on the 14-foot-wide, 26-foot-tall sculpture that he designed and created from scratch and transported it from Villa Maria College’s Art Shop to its permanent home on Old Falls Street in Niagara Falls.
Walp, who spent over a month constructing the creation, says it was inspired by the beauty and the power of the Falls.
“When you make a piece of public art, you really want to be inspired by the surroundings of where it’s going to go, and what better place to get inspired than a wonder of the world,” said Walp. “I went down to the Falls, walked along the river, and saw the water bravely jumping over the cliff, and violently churning at the bottom. Water droplets and the spray were shooting everywhere. I got the idea to try to recreate that experience of the Falls and make people feel like they’re within a swirling and churning of water with water droplets.”
Not only did the beauty of Niagara Falls assist Walp in conceptualizing the sculpture’s design, it helped him incorporate a particular color that will resonate with anyone who has ever visited the Falls. “Walking up from the Falls that very same day…I saw guys with big enormous blue trash bags,” he said. “They were used ponchos from the Maid of the Mist. I said, ‘That is a great color!’ And it was the inspiration for the piece’s water droplets.
Almost all of the base of the sculpture is made of one-quarter-inch aluminum, complete with arms that hold the cobalt blue water droplets, which were created from urethane resin. The engineering, construction and design of the piece took Walp the last year to complete. In part, the sculpture project process was so lengthy because it was important for Walp to make something more than a thing people walk by. “I think it’s more important to engage with the public and see if you can get people within the piece, so that helped lead to the design, in that it’s an arch,” he said. “I also wanted to be able to fit a family inside of the sculpture for photo opportunities so it was really important to think about how big it could be and how many people could fit within it.”
Once the sculpture was completed, Walp loaded it onto a truck for the journey to Old Falls Street between Niagara Falls and the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort. The journey, which would usually take about 35 minutes, took about two hours to complete due to the sculpture’s size. Once it arrived in Niagara Falls, Walp and his team spent the rest of the day installing the sculpture.
As an associate professor of interior design and the art shop supervisor at Villa Maria College, Walp has been considering how this sculpture project can be applied in his classroom every step of the way.
“I started with sketches, something I ask my students to do. Then I did a to-scale model, something I ask my students to do. Then, I did computer aided design (CAD) drawings, something I ask my students to do,” he said “Then, I worked with metal benders, who read my CAD drawings and took measurements off of those, and worked with concrete people that need exact measurements. I can show my students the process that I had to go through, and how the things I’m teaching can be applied in the real world. I can say this was the best tool for this step, explain why CAD was the best program to convey my measurements to an outside person who is going to do some of the work for me.”
“I can show my 3D Design students, my interior design students, and let them know that the practice of designing takes a lot of time and a lot of iterations, computer aided design is about precision drawing, models are about seeing the thing before you have to make the entire thing to know if it’s going to look good or if it’s not, and working with other people is a reality that all of our students will find themselves in,” he continued. “They’ll do their job, but they’ll have to send their job to another person who does the next part of it. I think I can convey, in the context of this sculpture, what my students my go through in the future.”
For more information on the making and installation of Professor Walp’s sculpture project, visit https://youtu.be/bBG5C0rVIdg.