A current of creativity running strong
“I think of the finished sculpture as a current or river in motion,” says creator Brian Frus, associate professor of art at Jacksonville University and alumni of the Glass program. The glass creation now undulating above the lobby of JU’s Terry Concert Hall is about much more than art, says Frus. Under his direction, the momentum gained during production of Creative Current will now flow directly into other projects Jacksonville University continues to imagine.
“This latest project is about how art all blends together,” Frus says. His “current” concept embraced more than the creative process alone. It captures the movement of JU’s program over time. On October 17, Frus and a small army of students and community volunteers unveiled Creative Current.
“I invited members of the community who had shared glass experiences with us before to come back, re-engage and help. It’s all about ownership, and it’s exciting to have members of the community connect as a part of a bigger project,” Frus says.
The Fourth of July was the first day he’d taken off since spring semester, and by the end of August his evenings in the studio stretched until 11 p.m. “Making more than two-thousand five-hundred individual glass pieces is a crazy, huge daunting task,” Frus explains.
He kept the refrigerator in the fully-equipped art annex well stocked so summer volunteers didn’t have to stop working and drive off campus for lunch. “I’m relying on students, interns and volunteers to help produce the volume. I couldn’t do it without them. I’ve become a project manager instead of a solo artist,” he says.
One student is Morgan Zawis, a junior Glass major at JU, who earned internship credit working on the project. She was a fixture in the studio, as talented as she was reliable, according to JU arts faculty.
Frus’ father, John, also stepped in to lend a hand. A recipient of the College of Fine Arts Special Award for Service, he was glad to help, but says the honor wasn’t his primary motivation. The entire Frus family, at one time or another, rolled up their sleeves to move the project along, from calculations to installation, all for the love of art.
Emily Morrison, recent BFA graduate from New York’s Pratt Institute, also volunteered. She returned to Jacksonville to visit family after a stint at UrbanGlass in New York City, where Frus was previously director of education.
Elise Leasure, a member of the Arlington community, participated in a glass demo series on campus that served as the impetus for her involvement in the production of Creative Current. “It’s just a ton of fun. Large-scale projects like this give you the confidence that there’s nothing you can’t do. It was a great opportunity and those don’t come around too often. I count myself lucky to have been a part.”
The months-long production process, involving a minimum one-thousand working hours, began with a concept design, stacks of sketches, two different prototypes and the original architectural plans for the hall. “The idea was this: when people come into the lobby, they’ll be led forward and deeper into the space,” Frus says.
With a finished weight of roughly 2,500 pounds and an estimated value over $250,000, the sculpture features 103 linear feet of steel spine covered with glass tentacles or stems. The creation hangs more than twelve feet above visitors, fixed to ceiling struts at sixteen strategic points. “Each point,” Frus says, “holds around two-hundred and fifty pounds. I could swing off one of those with a buddy and it would hold just fine.”
Described as a “jewel box of an auditorium” at its dedication in 1991, Terry Concert Hall was made possible by the generosity of Mary Virginia and Herman C. Terry, and is located near the university’s main entrance, where it serves as an icon for JU’s longstanding reputation in the performing arts.
The Hall received a $600,000 facelift in 2016, including more finely tuned acoustics, premium lighting, custom sound-proofing and additional stage enhancements. The total rehabilitation package left a drop ceiling above the lobby that, Frus says, begged for a piece like this to be imagined. “Mrs. Terry, for whom the hall is named, wanted to add her own funding for a sculpture.”
From its beginning point, the eye travels over a rolling steel spine to a myriad of jutting tentacles. The sculpture then branches into three colorful tributaries. Six distinct spinal sections were connected during installation, each measuring between sixteen and twenty feet and easily weighing 750 pounds apiece.
Mrs. Terry visited the glass studio herself in June and, with a little assistance from Brian and his team, she sculpted the “alpha” piece that now marks Creative Current’s starting point.
By Sheri Webber • Photos by Laura Evans