Penn State Behrend


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Ohio-based sculptor and ceramic artist Lauren Herzak-Bauman is collaborating with students at Penn State Behrend’s state-of-the-art plastics manufacturing laboratory. Herzak-Bauman is creating a new sculptural work for the campus. The Plastics Processing Lab, located in 127 Burke, is a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art processing lab. This lab is the largest and best equipped plastics lab for students in the country.

This lab emphasizes an educational focus, namely the practical application and integration of new technologies in Design, Processing, Materials, and Tooling. In addition to computer skills, the foundational skills of processing, materials, and design are stressed as central to creating a great plastics engineer.

Herzak-Bauman is working with the School of Engineering and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Students from both the Plastics Engineering Technology and Arts Administration programs are involved in project development and fabrication.

Colorwalk is a site-specific installation made from thousands of plastic discs fabricated at Behrend’s plastics fabrication lab. These discs stack together to make colorful vertical bars that meander through a tree line on the Penn State Behrend campus.

Working as an artist-in-residence at an academic plastics laboratory is one of the more unique experiences of my art career. I am so grateful to each student, faculty member, and staff involved in the production of this artwork and appreciate the chance to see my work in an entirely new context. Working through the concept and proposal has been fairly similar to other processes for developing public art, but diverged as I began to spend time in the plastics lab.

The biggest surprise is how much I learned about plastic as a material as well as how many similarities there are to fabricating a sculpture in an engineering lab. Both require design thinking and problem solving through process and material. There is a level of craft involved in fabricating plastic parts–for example, operating the injection mold machines requires dialing in to the specific needs of the equipment and how it interacts with the material and the mold.

There are so many settings that affect the outcome of injection-molded plastic: temperature, speed of injection, cooling, and mold design, to name a few. I loved looking at the plastics lab through the scope of an artist and craftsperson and learning the intricacies of the process.

The best result to come out of this partnership is the on-campus symbiosis between art and engineering. I was a bit of a foreigner in the lab and had to rely on faculty and students for mold design and production. Likewise, they had to trust that I had a strong vision to execute, and therefore a compelling reason to put the time and labor into producing 8,000+ plastic parts. Throughout the course of the project, I feel confident in saying we have all grown and learned about our own fields and about each other’s. Hopefully that outcome will carry through to the greater Behrend community.

I visited the campus several times to research sites and experiment with materials and honed in on both idea and site simultaneously. Both students and faculty spoke about the beauty and appreciation for the campus as an arboretum, which prompted me to opt for an outdoor location. I also thought about the democracy of the space and creating a piece with heavy foot traffic for all students, not those in a specific major. The site became clear as my ideas began to solidify in the lab. I chose the tree line between Reed and Erie Halls for its striking presence, its feasibility, and its location. I am excited to work within that landscape and make a piece that complements, interacts, and contrasts the natural elements found on campus.

Matt Levy, Associate Professor of Art History, Arts Administration Program Chair
Eric Corty, Director, School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Jonathan Meckley, Associate Professor & Program Chair, Plastics Engineering Technology
Jason Williams, Assistant Teaching Professor, Plastics Engineering Technology
Olivia Coghe, Arts Administration major
Dalton Dougherty, Arts Administration major
Jacob Jobczynski, Arts Administration major

Dr. Ralph Ford, Chancellor and Dean, Penn State Behrend, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Randy Geering, Senior Director, Business and Operations
Rande Joy, Assistant Director, Business and Operations
Steve Orbanek, Marketing Communications Coordinator
Bill Gonda, Senior Director, Strategic Communications
Tom Deau, Multimedia Production Coordinator, Strategic Communications
Tommy Hartung, Assistant Teaching Professor, Digital Media, Arts and Technology
Shawn Limrick, Physical Plant Maintenance
Rebecca Olanrewaju, Plastics Engineering Technology student
Joshua Lutz, Plastics Engineering Technology student
Martina Mandella, Plastics Engineering Technology student