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Saturday March 25th

Art Lab offers space for creative expression

Students work on their wood pieces during class.  The student's assignments was to build a sculpture inspired off a keyboard symbol.
Buy Photos Students work on their wood pieces during class. The student's assignments was to build a sculpture inspired off a keyboard symbol.

As a facility for often messy ceramic, wood and metal projects, the 17,686-square foot Art Lab on Airport Drive is an art student’s playground.

Home to large and bold student projects, the Art Lab offers classes and studio spaces that acquaint art students with new types of equipment, emphasizing technique along with artistry.

“A lot of times people go to art exhibits and say ‘I could make that,’” said Patrick Day, manager of the Art Lab. “Here is where students get a chance to try to do just that.”

Students often hope to come to the lab to do projects for fun — but it’s not a place for that, Day said. It’s for those taking classes and graduate students with studios.

The lab aims to create an environment where equipment and art work together — students learn to use the right tools to create something that is visually interesting.

Students taking classes at the Art Lab are given specific projects aimed at teaching the skills required to work with different types of equipment. They learn to explore the art of design within the technical restraints of assignments, Day said.

Jeremy Bass, a sophomore in an introductory 3-D design class, said the Art Lab provides an outlet for using different and varied materials. He said he has used cardboard and plywood and plans to delve into performance to explore themes of identity.

The Art Lab is also home to six graduate-student studios.

Graduate student Ray Padron uses one of six studio spaces at the Art Lab for his work with large scale public sculpture. His work traces organizations of religion and ideas about masculinity through sculpture.

“It was a big reason I even came to UNC,” Padron said. “My work is really material and process based — the art lab provides me the tools to do that kind of work.”

Padron’s work explores his own upbringing. He uses conceptual objects — like religious icons — to inspire his sculptures, which are often made with wood or sheet metal.

Padron said he uses his art to study the relationship between people and religion and religion and masculinity.

“It all works in one total chaotic reference,” Padron said.

The Art Lab helps foster a sense of community, he said.

“There’s a real culture there. Just having a large studio really gives me the space to generate and see ideas from beginning to end. It means I’m constantly working in a space filled with my ideas and my process.”

Like any science laboratory provides a space for experimentation, the Art Lab gives art students a place to work on projects during or after class.

The space is limited to students taking courses or occupying studio space at the facility, Day said.

Working in the Art Lab also teaches students to appreciate and learn from errors made in a shop setting. Unlike students working in a classroom, students in a shop must be able to respond to technical mistakes. Learning from those mistakes can be really valuable, Day said.

“The Lab challenges students on a lot of different levels — technically, mentally and artistically,” Day said.

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