Sep 27, 2012

FVCC Dedicates Ceramic Tessellation Mural Designed by Students

Flathead Valley Community College invites the community to join in the dedication of the new ceramic mural located on an outside wall of the Arts and Technology Building on the college’s campus.  The dedication will take place October 1.

The mural was designed by the 23 students in the spring 2011 Fine Arts and Mathematics class offered through the college’s Scholars Program.  The mural, designed specifically with the campus’ Arts and Technology Building in mind, consists of two main tessellating patterns, both designed by students – a sharp angled pattern representing technology and a softer petal-shaped piece representing art.  The finished mural consists of over 200 ceramic tiles, each piece perfectly scaled to five different sizes.  The two patterns spiral toward each other to a common center combining the representations of art and technology.  The pattern is loosely based on a spiral formed from a series of specific geometric figures called golden rectangles.

Math instructor Don Hickethier said tessellations, the golden ratio, and scaling were all topics of math study in the cross-curricular scholars course.

“The students tackled a very large project that combined a number of different mathematics topics, the process of creating an original design, as well as the dedication to press the hundreds of tiles,” said Hickethier.  “To see the final product on full display is not only very rewarding as a teacher, but also a lasting sign of the quality of education at FVCC and the school’s dedication to high standards. I am very glad to have had the opportunity to work with the students in the creation of this beautiful work of art.”

To construct the ceramic tiles, students created ten different forms to account for the two patterns and five different sizes needed.  Once the forms were completed, students pressed clay into them to create the individual tiles.

The clay used was specially formulated by FVCC art instructor David Smith, and the tiles, rather than being glazed, were stained with natural red and yellow oxides.

“The tiles were made with a clay body specifically designed and tested to withstand Kalispell’s harsh freeze-thaw environment,” explained Smith.  “The body was designed by the students to reflect colors found in nature, especially those of the changing seasons, and in particular, the changing colors of the leaves on the trees in front of the mural.”

While the 2011 class was responsible for the design and layout, they were able to complete roughly half of the required tiles. The responsibility of creating the remaining tiles fell to the spring 2012 Fine Arts and Mathematics class of only five students who worked diligently during the semester to complete them.

Hickethier and Smith worked throughout the summer to carefully place the tiles, being mindful to stay true to the model designed by the students.

“As we worked toward the center and completion of the mural, the student’s planning and attention to detail became apparent,” said Hickethier.  “The mural appears exactly as the students had planned.”

The dedication will take place at noon near the mural outside the Arts and Technology Building on the college’s campus.  For more information, contact Ivan Lorentzen at 756-3864 or