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Scrapheap challenge accepted - students sculpt giant armadillo from repurposed tyres

Turning four tonnes of car tyres into a 28-foot long armadillo sculpture has been an academic and personal highlight for six Fine Art students at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

Armadillo_inset1Second and final-year artists Melissa Beardmore, Kirstie Bridges, Jay Clarke, Lis Naylor, Katerina Nikolaidou and Kyle Power had the opportunity to fly out to Palm Bay in Florida and take part in The Art of Sustainability festival.

By commissioning large-scale sculptures reflective of the natural habitat of the city and its proximity to the Indian River Lagoon, the annual festival encourages debate around issues of sustainability and the environment.

The 10-day stay in America’s Sunshine State – which took place last month thanks to #DMUglobal - was an unforgettable experience for the students, involving long working hours, coping with hot weather conditions and heavy lifting.

In just six days the group turned a heap of reclaimed scrapyard tyres into an enormous sculpture of an armadillo, affectionately nicknamed ‘carmadillo’.

Their five-and-a-half-foot tall piece stands alongside a number of large kinetic sculptures by internationally renowned artists such as Kevin Duval, Tom Brewitz and John Weber, and will be on display until the end of April. 

Lis Naylor said: “My end-goal is to make public art and this was my first opportunity to actually do so. 

“The whole experience was incredibly professional and our finished piece could hold its own in any exhibition. I’m really proud of what we achieved.”

The students applied for the chance to take part in the festival back in October, giving them a few months to develop their idea.

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“Ultimately, our thinking was dictated by the material at hand,” said Jay Clarke.

“Despite a few practice runs, the tyres in Florida turned out to be much more rigid than the ones we used back home, so we had to really think on our feet out there. 

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which has inspired me to explore the possibility of using non-traditional materials in my own work.”

Armadillo_insetFrom left to right: Jay, Melissa, Lis, Kirstie, Katerina and Kyle

Melissa Beardmore’s highlight was seeing the finished armadillo in the context of the rest of the exhibition.

She said: “After all our hard work, it was good to step back and enjoy the finished thing. “Being invited on what was essentially a business trip to such a cool place was incredible.”

Katerina Nikolaidou said: “The nature of our course requires a lot of independent work, so it was really nice to work as a team with other people for a change. 

“As a painter, creating such a challenging sculpture was something new and fun for me.” 

With an interest in art admin, Kirstie Bridges said: “I’m very active in the arts scene in my hometown, but this experience was taking it to another level. 

“Not only did the trip exceed my expectations in every sense, it will also look incredible on my CV.”

Kyle Power said: “The experience has taught me to be confident in myself and always stick to my instincts when it comes to my skills.”

Ben Carpenter, Associate Professor in Fine Art at DMU, said: “Our hosts, Brevard Cultural Alliance and the City of Palm Bay, were really generous and supportive, and the work was well received. 

“It’ great that through #DMUglobal we can make this sort of opportunity possible for our students.”

Posted on: Tuesday 10 April 2018

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