Sculptor David Williamson gets a hand while erecting the Project AWARE sculptures in the lobby of the Andres School of Education on the Upper Iowa University campus. The three sculptures are on display through March 2014.
FAYETTE, Iowa (October 24, 2013) – In a truly collaborative effort over the course of nine years, volunteers and activists of Project AWARE (A Watershed Awareness River Expedition) came together for the purpose of cleaning up Iowa rivers and streams and, most importantly, to raise awareness of the need to keep rivers clean. Leading the transformation of river trash to art, sculptor and poet David Williamson worked with volunteers at the request of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Three of the sculptures that have been created from trash are on display in the Andres School of Education at UIU until March 2014. The building is open to the public during school hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"We are excited to be able to host these well-known sculptures at Upper Iowa University," said Elissa Wenthe, UIU assistant professor of art. "Collaborating between the School of Liberal Arts, School of Business, Andres School of Education and the School of Science and Mathematics, Upper Iowa was fortunate to make these sculptures available for viewing to our surrounding communities. The time and talents that painstakingly went into these sculptures is truly amazing and goes a long way to showcase the very reason they are here: to create awareness for protecting the health of our Iowa waterways."
Out of the mounds of trash and debris reclaimed from Iowa rivers, Williamson and groups of volunteers have created beautifully whimsical sculptures since 2004. When asked by Mary Rankin and Brian Soenen, leaders of Project AWARE, what he could build with 1,000 pounds of trash, Williamson answered, "I wouldn't do anything. We'll do it at the State Fair."
Over the course of five days during the 2004 Iowa State Fair, more than 400 volunteers worked with Williamson to craft "Fair Catch," an almost 12-foot tall, half-ton metal structure resembling a canoe paddle topped by a stonefly. The entire sculpture was made from materials pulled from the Des Moines River earlier that summer and now sits in the southeast corner of the Andres building.
Most of the trash removed from the rivers is recycled, but some of it is saved for the public process of art at the Iowa State Fair. There, Williamson works with volunteers to envision a sculpture and then bend the metal, or smelt the aluminum trash and cast it in sand molds to create pieces of the sculpture.
"We let the trash do the talking," said Williamson. The people pulling the trash from the river sometimes get an idea of what to create, like "Strongback," which took its initial form from an upside down washing machine agitator. Later, bicycle seat structures were added, along with casted gloves showing the sign-language form of water. "Strongback" is located in front of the staircase in Andres.
Along the north wall of the Andres lobby is a five-foot replica of the security river gates project designed for the Iowa DNR facility at the Iowa State Fair. Each four-panel set weighs 1,000 pounds. It is a legacy artwork in that hundreds of participants can spot a part of the gates they salvaged. The model panel currently on exhibition is a one-half scale. The actual gates are closer to 10-feet in height.
Not only a metalsmith, Williamson is also a wordsmith, crafting words and ideas shared by the Project AWARE volunteers at the State Fair into poems and song lyrics. The earliest poems, "Clear," "Current" and "Bearings" swirl down the page like a river running narrow and fast, and then slow and wide with sandbars. More than 250 people contributed words and phrases that Williamson shaped into the 26-line poem "Clear." The poem "Prospectus" can be found at www.uiu.edu/projectaware.
For more information about Project AWARE, check out www.iowadnr.gov/Recreation/CanoeingKayaking/ProjectAWARE.aspx.
About Upper Iowa University Founded in 1857, Upper Iowa University is a private, not-for-profit university providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs and leadership development opportunities to more than 6,200 students—nationally and internationally—at its Fayette campus and learning centers worldwide. Upper Iowa University is a recognized innovator in offering accredited, quality programs through flexible, multiple delivery systems, including online and self-paced degree program. For more information, visit www.uiu.edu.
Monica Bayer Heaton
Associate Vice President for Communication and Marketing