IU students' exhibits will represent U.S. in international design 'Olympics'

  • Jan. 26, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Eight students. Two exhibits. One professor. Final destination: Prague.

A group of IU students spent part of their summer and holiday break constructing two exhibits that will represent the United States in June during the 2015 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space.

Held every four years in the Czech Republic's capital city, the 10-day event is the largest for performance design in the world. Often described as the "Olympics" for stage and set designers, it brings together the best in theater and performance design from more than 60 countries.

"For me, it's a wonderful way to grow professionally at the international level," said Paul Brunner, IU associate professor of theater technology in the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance, who was selected to be part of the event's U.S. team. "And to involve some of our students, for them to be able to work with well-known designers and to have to chance to travel to Prague and experience the very best in international theater design, it's amazing. IU's involvement demonstrates that our programs and students are held in the highest regard across the nation."

Among the dozens of public art-style exhibits that will be on display in Prague are the two built on the Bloomington campus that will represent the U.S.: A free-standing sculpture tentatively titled "The Cloud" by a Broadway designer, and "Transcend," a piece featuring a bank of brightly colored lockers created by a select group of American students.

IU's student-builders weren't just following a set of blueprints, however.

They had to literally engineer the nearly 18-foot-tall spiraling piece envisioned by up-and-coming Czech designer Klara Zieglerova, who is based in New York City and has worked on such smash hits as "Jersey Boys" and "Sister Act." The group had to ensure the sculpture could bear its own weight and be disassembled and reassembled relatively quickly, and that the individual pieces could stand up to overseas travel.

IU's involvement in the project strongly aligns with the university's plans for a new School of Art and Design. As part of his 2014 State of the University address, IU President Michael A. McRobbie said the plan to merge the College of Arts and Sciences' departments of studio arts and apparel merchandising and interior design will strengthen IU's offerings in a full range of design-related disciplines.

"Experiences like these are invaluable for our students," said Larry Singell, executive dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, which also houses the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance. "The chance to travel internationally and work with leading professionals at the world’s largest theater design exhibition -- these are life-changing opportunities that enable students to envision themselves in the careers that they've been preparing for and dreaming about here at IU."

For second-year lighting design MFA student Carrie Barton, the opportunity to attend the international event is still nearly unbelievable.

"I'm from a small town in East Texas, and going to something like PQ was simply unattainable to me," she said. "It's kind of a cliché, but I can't think of any other way to describe it other than as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'm so glad I came to IU and can have this chance."

Graduate students taking part in the project are Aaron Bowersox, Bridgette Dreher, Sandy Everett, Katie Gruenhagen, Kristen Martino, Kelsey Nichols, Bradley Shaw and Barton. Travel costs for four of the students are being funded by the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology, while costs for the remaining four were paid by a local donor. Assisting with international logistics and project management is Thom Quintas, the theater department's production manager.

Both U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology/U.S.A. Prague Quadrennial exhibits are now packed away. They will leave the U.S. in early April and will travel by boat to Prague, arriving in early June. Brunner, Quintas and the eight students leave for Prague on June 10. They will install the exhibits June 13 to 16 in time for the June 18 public opening of the Prague Quadrennial; and they will dismantle and prepare the exhibits for shipping back to the U.S. by June 30.

IU graduate student Bradley Shaw reaches down for a piece of metal conduit as he works to assemble an exhibit that will be on display in Prague later this year.

IU graduate student Bradley Shaw reaches down for a piece of metal conduit as he works to assemble an exhibit that will be on display in Prague later this year.

Print-Quality Photo

Media Contacts

Amy Osajima

Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance

  • Office 812-855-0514
  • aosajima@indiana.edu