Energizing Spaces

Installation art describes a genre of three-dimensional works that are often site-specific and designed to transform the perception of a space, usually an interior. Offered at UNF every spring, Jenny Hagar’s class, “Energizing Spaces,” is a semester-long look at the nuts and bolts behind this type of art-making. This year, Hagar and her class have been able to explore the medium even further, constructing a large site-specific work at East CoRK titled Synapse.
The Work
The installation, located within the CoRK art district in Riverside, fills an expansive 5,000-square-foot exhibition space. The installation is an exploration of the inner workings of the brain through a series of large metal structures (neurons) and cast tape forms (synapses). These structures run throughout the gallery in varying sizes, with the tape casting swirling its way across the floor between the larger metal structures.
In order to create a work that fills such a large space, vast quantities of materials were required. By deciding how much an average student spends in supplies on a single class, Hagar’s students pooled their resources and contributed the equivalent amount to budget for the piece. The class also received donations from 3M via another art professor at UNF, Jesse Nolan, as well as a two-ton steel donation from Gerdau AmeriSteel.

The Teacher
Jenny Hagar is a prominent local artist and a professor of sculpture at UNF. She holds an MFA in Spatial Arts and Digital Media from San José State University. In her own work, Hagar often creates sculpture and installations that explore personal themes of marriage and femininity. She also utilizes a variety of media, from steel and silk to even horse hair.

The Students
Passionate about the importance of this opportunity for her students, Hagar is thrilled by every chance to partake in an installation project that can be created outside the classroom walls. The space, generously offered by CoRK for Hagar’s class this semester, was rich with possibilities. Having this gallery at their disposal has enabled her students to create a large-scale work from the ground up. Everything from conceptualizing to deciding materials, budgeting, ordering supplies and making scale models was completed and overseen by the students themselves.
While it presented an amazing chance for the class to engage in the creation of a large-scale installation, it has also posed great challenges. According to Hagar, however, these challenges are just another opportunity- a chance for the students to work together in exciting and unplanned ways. Says Hagar, “[With collaboration] you can do something you couldn’t do on your own.” Collaboration in sculpture, especially a large-scale piece like Synapse, is not only a great skill, but a necessary one. “Everyone has to be an invested party in this project for it to succeed.” Hagar says, laughing, that her own personal motto is “Get to work!” and it is one that has been an important theme in this monumental undertaking.
The project is also exciting in that it is interdisciplinary and has been augmented by contributions from students of varied backgrounds. This year her students range from art students- Photography and Sculpture majors- to Design students and even an Engineering major. Hagar cites this mix of disciplines as a rich beginning for creative expression and an occasion “when everyone’s skills come into play.”

The Community
Hagar emphasizes working with a sense of community as an important component to art-making as well as to her teaching philosophy, and that feeling is reflected in the creation of Synapse. Through the project, her students have had a chance to interact with professional artists working and exhibiting within the CoRK art district. And they will soon be engaging with the larger Jacksonville community when their exhibit opens on April 13. This is an exciting opportunity for the student artists, giving them the chance to exhibit their work for an audience outside the academic realm.
Keep an eye out because they may be carving a name for themselves in the arts very soon. The student artists are Russell Bailey, Sara Brull, Amanda Campbell, Claire DeVoe, Danisha Edwards, Wandy Griggs, Mark McCombs, Courtney McCracken, Kyle Pritchett, Will Renfroe and Maggie Solaun.