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Multimedia Coordinator Creates Monolith for ArtPrize 10 in Grand Rapids

Ferris State UniversityA casual conversation among Ferris State University peers is being credited with advancing the concept of an entry in ArtPrize 10, a 19-day art event which begins Wednesday, Sept. 19 in Grand Rapids.

Multimedia Coordinator Richard Piippo, a member of Ferris’ University Advancement and Marketing staff, will display his Monolith, an interactive display which will be available for viewing and examination in the lobby of Grand Rapids City Hall. Piippo credits a discussion with the university’s Fine Art Gallery director, Carrie Weis, as having sparked his interest to develop this project.

“We were talking about media and materials. It was really a simple conversation,” Piippo said. “I was telling Carrie about temperature reactive pigments or what is known as thermochromic paint. That material is most commonly used on automobile bodies, but Carrie thought that it could have a real impact if it were used in an ArtPrize project. Several months after our discussion, I chose to incorporate its use in my work.”

Piippo said the Monolith should be relatively easy to pick out as his creation is seven feet tall, four feet wide and 15 inches thick.

“My entry has a free-standing design. So, you would not classify it as a sculpture or a flat piece of art, and it is very much meant to be touched by those who are taking part in ArtPrize,” Piippo said. “I decided to call it the Monolith, which has applications both in art and architecture.”

The black surface of Piippo’s Monolith will change over to a clear surface when a temperature of 86-point-five degrees Fahrenheit is reached, which comes about after a hand is placed upon it for approximately one minute.

“I have considered adjustments to the surface that may speed up that change process, though viewers would be able to adjust the tempo themselves by lightly rubbing an area of the Monolith,” Piippo said. “I constructed it to allow someone of average height to look at varied parts of the Monolith, and the more adult-appropriate images are placed toward the top of the structure.”

The Monolith is Piippo’s first entry in ArtPrize, which has a variety of categories where entries can receive public votes and be considered for prize money and awards. While there will be a curator overseeing the City Hall venue, Piippo hopes to spur interest in his work by attending those first few days of the competition.

“I hope to be there for much of the opening weekend, Sept. 21 through Sept. 23,” Piippo said. “With obligations to my work and family, I cannot keep up the level of oversight and involvement that other artists invest in promoting their work.”

ArtPrize’s juried competition and public voting for entries will see more than $500,000 in prize monies awarded with the top prizes in each category being $200,000 awards. Piippo said his investment of approximately 500 hours, over a five-month period, was not focused on potential profits.

“I would be happy if the Monolith was exposed to as many people as possible, which is a bigger matter, in my mind, than the total number of votes it receives,” Piippo said. “Still, if I were able to win something, it might not be a bad result for all my efforts.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Ferris State University Multimedia Coordinator Richard Piippo poses with his Monolith, an entry in ArtPrize 10, a 19-day art display and competition in Grand Rapids that begins Wednesday, Sept. 19. The Monolith has thermochromatic paint, which goes clear when its surface is touched or rubbed, to reveal the images beneath.