Inside the courtyard of the recently redeveloped San Marco Train Station property, a cluster of bicycles painted vivid red–steel frames crisscrossing like a cat’s cradle string, wheels pointed in virtually every direction–rest atop a single metal pole. It’s an arresting composition, especially in the midday Florida sun.
Artist and Florida State College at Jacksonville professor Dustin Harewood remembers the first time he saw it.
“I was driving by and the sculpture actually startled me!” he says. “The color was bold. The form was fresh and dynamic.”
Intrigued, he inquired about the artist responsible. He was shocked by what he discovered.
Nineteen-year-old Morgan Ashurian created the piece, called “Human Intersection,” after pitching the idea to her father, who owns Ashco Developers, the company that took over the San Marco Train Station in 2008.
“My family is very arts-oriented,” the Boston University sophomore told Folio Weekly over the phone. “My mom was really involved in the arts and she kind of led me to initiate my passion at an early age.”
Determined to make use of skills she developed in sculpture classes at The Bolles School, Ashurian set her sights on creating a sculpture that represented the vibrancy of her neighborhood.
“San Marco’s a very diverse area,” she says. “There’s a flow to it–with arts and culture. And there are a lot of schools there. I think it’s important to recognize that diversity in our communities can really make them flourish.”
Drawn to the imagery of bicycles carrying people around the neighborhood, she shopped around, eventually amassing a few dozen two-wheelers from Salvation Army auctions.
“There were kids’ bikes, adult bikes, mountain bikes, all these different types,” she recalls. “All the components of this sculpture come from different people, with different backgrounds and different stories.”
Working from a makeshift art space in the then-vacant San Marco Train Station property, Ashurian cut the bike frames, then welded the metal pieces. To add a dynamic element, Ashurian wanted to make sure the sculpture could turn. She applied and was granted engineer certifications.
Shortly after first glimpsing Ashurian’s sculpture, Harewood enlisted his FSCJ colleague Mark Creegan and then-Dean Richard Greene to look into bringing a similar sculpture to FSCJ’s Kent Campus.
“We knew that we didn’t want a traditional sculpture,” Harewood says. “The moment I saw Morgan’s piece, I immediately became obsessed with the idea of having it at Kent.”
Harewood called Ashco Developers, where Ashurian was working, to ask if she would create a piece of art for FSCJ’s Kent Campus.
“I said ‘yes, absolutely, I agree,’” she says.
Ashurian worked on the concept for her second large-scale sculpture for nearly a year-and-a-half. She says it was important to her to “get a feel for what FSCJ means to the community.”
She decided on a larger version of “Human Intersection.”
“I really tried to amp it up a bit,” she says of the second generation of her sculpture, a piece called “Unifying Diversity.” She chose a spirited, nearly neon green, used more bikes and higher-gauge steel for the construction.
“After we got all of the sketches approved and the permits figured out, it was similar in the way it was constructed,” she says.
“The arrangement of various styles, sizes and directions of bikes are metaphors for human diversity,” Ashurian wrote in the sculpture’s description. “The sculpture’s steel frame and green color bring unity to these fragments while preserving their differences. Similarly, when individuals steer themselves towards diversity, communities become harmonious vehicles that enrich the essence of our humanity.”
This spring, as word of Ashurian’s work began to spread around BU, she was invited to display photos of her projects in an art show at the university. Only a few of her professors know about her artwork.
“I try to keep it on the down-low,” she says, laughing. “Part of the FSCJ sculpture is that it’s meant to be a dedication to the teachers that really help students reach their potential. I don’t want to do it for the acclaim. It’s really for the community–the people that support others. For me to be able to serve the community through art, that’s fantastic.”