Shelly Casto is the Director of Education at the Wexner Center. She runs our Art & Environment teen and teacher courses, and one of her former students, Dempsey Ewan, earned the opportunity to create a professional public art commission at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center. Read on for a reflection of the process and see photos from last Sunday’s unveiling. You can learn more about Dempsey’s inspiration on our here.
Dempsey Ewan (left) and Shelly Casto (right) at the unveiling of Circles of Pollination
I recently had the great privilege and pleasure to celebrate the work of a bright young artist, Dempsey Ewan, as we unveiled her professionally commissioned artwork—Circles of Pollination—at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center. Dempsey was selected from a group of high school students who were interested in gaining experience creating a work of art to serve as a teaching tool at the Audubon Center. All of the students had excelled in my fall course on contemporary art and environmental issues, exhibiting their final projects here at the Wexner Center.
Guests at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center at the unveiling
But what would it mean for a student just graduating from high school to translate their experience creating work entirely from their own perspective (as their art teachers throughout their K–12 experience undoubtedly encouraged), and tap into their authentic creative energy while responding to the needs of a client? This was the challenge for Dempsey and she tackled it beautifully. She presented to Audubon staff a full suite of three fully-realized proposals all containing varying degrees of challenge for a viewer who may or may not be accustomed to encountering contemporary art. Dempsey presented all three proposals without betraying her preference, giving all of them her full energy and attention. And, when the final selection was made, she pursued its realization with incredible commitment.
In working with a client, Dempsey gained experience setting boundaries and standing up for her vision. In today’s world, artists have a real challenge: juggling the need to earn a living with a commitment to cultivating a unique artist’s vision. As she embarks on her next chapter at the Columbus College of Art and Design, I hope this project will give her some tools to navigate forging a productive and fulfilling career as an artist.
I know, for sure, that Dempsey has made a very valuable contribution to the work that environmental educators provide out at the Audubon. She was such an independent young lady, that I confess there was a component of her final project that somehow had eluded me until I saw the completed work: on the back of her sturdy mosaics representing pollinators and their processes, she had mounted clear plexiglass discs that carefully labeled each species that appears in the work. She had found a wonderful way to allow the identification so important to environmental educators without detracting from the artwork’s impact.
It takes an artist to balance truth with poetry.
Thank you, Dempsey!
Circles of Pollination was commissioned through a partnership with the Wexner Center for the Arts. Special thanks to the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s power2give program and the donors who supported the commission, as well as Puffin West, Ltd., which provided matching funds for the campaign. Special thanks to our community partner, the Grange Audubon Center.