If Ramiro Pena put a label on his sculpture that is temporarily on display in front of the chapel at The University of Texas-Pan American, he would title it "Optimism."
The water represents the opportunities ahead as you graduate and the encouraging moments in life that propel you forward, explained Pena, 39, the married father of two children and a former draftsman who worked for 18 years at Magic Valley Electric Cooperative.
"The water represents the optimism of getting a college education and for me, providing a better place for my family," he said.
Pena and a number of Clark's other students were able to put their final projects on display across campus this summer and through the first week of the Fall 2011 semester.
"It is very encouraging to the students to have their work shown on campus. And I think it's a good marketing tool for the Art Department itself to be able to be noticed," said Clark, who got official support for the temporary art installations from his department chair, college dean, and UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen.
"At the end of the class they had over 100 designs on paper. They stepped up and they did it. It's about thinking about design. Don't stop at the first design, keep exploring. The further you explore the more you find," Clark said.
The second part of their project was to pick one of their designs and produce it using any materials they could think of. Pena worked with a local company on a coating he used on the Styrofoam components of his sculpture and recycled its base from previous projects. A larger than life water fountain displayed outside the library made use of a huge metal dish on loan from the Habitat for Humanity Restore store. Clark said he was pleased with their creations.
"Some tried to make something that is absolutely opposite of what you would think would be concerned with water. One student did an electrical receptacle with water coming out of it. A three-girl team did the one in front of the cafeteria. They had never welded or used a cutting torch and they just got after it and got the job done," he said.
Pena said the fact that their project would be on display put an added pressure on the students, however, it turned out to be a positive one.
"As artists, there has to be a time to show yourself and open yourself to the public to see what they think. I've gotten very good response from other people, my fellow art students and that kind of feels good. It adds to your motivation and confidence," he said.
Pena said when he sees parents and their children during summer orientations stopping to look at his sculpture, he hopes they see in it what he does.
"Hopefully, they will walk away from it with thinking they can make a life at Pan Am and a better future for their family," he said. Go to the UTPA Department of Art website to learn more about their programs.