In the Loop
Alumni News : Feb 26, 2015

Alumnus creates original work for the new Austin Cary Learning Center

By Jessie Ward

The Austin Cary Forest, located off Waldo Road in Alachua County, is a valuable natural laboratory of the University of Florida for forest resource education, demonstration and research. Over the past 25 years, the forest, named after nationally known forestry pioneer Austin Cary, housed a rustic 3,200 square foot conference center on the grounds where class lectures and conferences were commonly held. It was aptly named the Austin Cary Learning Center. Unfortunately, in 2011, it was destroyed by a quick-moving fire.

Efforts immediately began to move forward with construction plans for a new center and, last April, after three years, the new Austin Cary Learning Center was dedicated. Thanks to a call for proposals, the new center would feature artwork from School of Art + Art History (SA+AH) alumnus Jason Mitcham.

“Jason Mitcham's project at the Austin Cary Learning Center is part of an ongoing initiative to work with units across camps to provide high-quality public art commissions from SA+AH students, faculty and alumni,” says Richard Heipp, director of the school. “The school provides services that coordinate public art competitions following national public art standards.”

The School of Art + Art History put out formal announcements and reminders to faculty, students and alumni. Mitcham heard about it from Heipp and decided to begin work on a design for the center.

Mitcham’s idea was created specifically for the center. Originally it was designed to be a longer animation, but during the design process it became a short animation accompanied by a large painting created from imagery within the video. The video is a stop-motion animation, created from a painting. The video depicts a tree growing, while being mapped with lines, arrows, grids and words. In particular, the video, along with the large painting, explored imagery relating to the Geomatics, Surveying, and Mapping component of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation.

“Technically, I had not ever created a public artwork before this, says Mitcham. “In some ways though, I considered my animated music video Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise to be a public work of art, as it was created specifically to exist permanently within the public realm. It definitely helped prepare me for designing a work of art for permanent public viewing, such as this!”

Further collaborations with students and the SA+AH will see the completion of more site-specific projects for the Austin Cary Learning Center. To date, these projects have created more than $150,000 in public art funding.