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Students Building New Campus Sculpture

PCC InSight Interview with Matt Amante

Matt AmanteWINTERVILLE—Students from several Pitt Community College curricula are combining efforts this semester to develop a new campus sculpture.

According to Matt Amante, a PCC Associate of Fine Arts instructor, the students are constructing a 13-foot metallic sculpture that will be installed on campus near the Ed and Joan Warren Building on April 13. Amante said Carl Billingsley, an East Carolina University professor, has designed the sculpture.

“I think a large sculpture impacts everyone on campus and anyone who visits campus,” Amante said. “This is a great way to beautify our campus, and with the location of this piece, everyone driving into campus on Reedy Branch Road will see it.”

Amante said the concept for a student sculpture project came about during a conversation he had with PCC welding instructor Keith Kinlaw.

“We wanted to try to come up with a plan to be able to get more artwork on campus, impact a large number of students, and make an affordable model for public art here at PCC,” he said.

While Industrial Systems Technology students are working on some of the CNC cutting of the metal for the project, welding, fabrication and sculpture students are busy constructing Billingsley’s design. Amante says a total of seven classes are directly involved with the effort, adding that it is a “great learning experience for the students.”

When it has been completed, the sculpture will be the second to be added to the PCC campus in a little more than a year. The first – a stainless-steel-and-bronze sculpture by world-renowned artist Hanna Jubran – was installed in March 2011 outside of the Craig F. Goess Student Center.

“As an artist and sculptor myself, I would love to see more public artwork on campus,” Amante said. “I feel that artwork can be physically and conceptually challenging for the artist to create and also challenging for viewers to understand and interpret. The physical and mental challenge parallels the foundations of higher education, in my opinion.”

Charity Valentine, coordinator of PCC’s Fine Arts program, helped lead the effort to have Jubran’s sculpture placed on campus as a member of the college’s Art Committee. She explained that even though Pitt’s classic buildings and manicured lawns are very attractive, the campus still lacked art as a crucial element.

Valentine said Art Committee members wanted an impressive sculpture on campus to expose the student body to the value of art and to broaden their awareness of the local arts community.

“When our youth can understand and place value on intrinsic beauty, it will empower them to carry those values with them into their successful careers,” she said. “For those students who dream of becoming artists, the sculpture is an amazing example of how there is a market for fine artists to sell their own work.”

Though he would not reveal what the student-built sculpture would be, Amante said Billingsley has been creating sculptures for more than 35 years and has been teaching sculpture classes in the UNC System for more than 25 years. He added that Billingsley, who lives and works out of a studio in Ayden, has art that is being displayed in permanent collections in the Americas, Europe and Asia.

“He actually introduced iron casting to artists in Finland, Latvia and Estonia and helped build their first furnaces in the 1990s,” Amante said. “It’s great to have a local artist with so much world experience coming to Pitt.”

After PCC’s newest sculpture is installed next month, Amante said Billingsley would deliver a free public lecture on his work later that day at 4 p.m. The sculpture dedication will take place at 5 p.m. and will be followed by a reception in the Goess Student Center.