Wausau East students work with an artist to blend technology and art

WAUSAU – Students at Wausau East High School are creating a series of sculptures for the school grounds, thanks to the hard work of students and the guidance of an artist from Wisconsin.

Milwaukee-based artist Don Rambadt guides a group of about 30 students from Wausau East through the process of creating original metal sculptures. The students, a mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors from manufacturing and art courses, first met Rambadt on September 21 at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum.

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When they first met, Rambadt showed the students the collection of his works currently on display in the annual “Birds in Art” exhibition, for which he was the master artist for that year.

Sculptor artist Don Rambadt of Milwaukee works with Wausau East High School students on their collaborative art projects Thursday, September 21, 2017 at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin.  T'xer Zhon Kha/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Rambadt has been making art since graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1994. Most of his sculptures are abstract birds made of different types of metals, welded together. He devotes himself to bronze casting, and once upon a time, in college, he even drew. But today he focuses on abstract artwork depicting birds large and small.

While at Woodson in late September, students had the chance to listen to the process behind the metal pieces he creates.

They were challenged to come up with different sculpture designs in mixed groups of technology and arts students. Manufacturing and technology professor Josh Eberhardt, one of the teachers leading the project, said the teachers and Rambadt encouraged students to step out of their comfort zone for the first stage of the project, bringing together different skills that most students didn’t. I don’t realize they went together.

“The biggest thing we wanted students to see was crossover,” Eberhardt said of art and technology.

Arts students worked alongside technology students, bringing ideas to life through drawings on paper. Next, students were challenged to create a 3D visual using card stock.

For Ben Diny, a senior fabrication student, the project was a step out of his comfort zone, but a welcome challenge.

“I love how you can start with anything, as long as you’re open to (it) and where it takes you,” he said. “It’s cool to see behind the scenes working.”

Sculptor artist Don Rambadt of Milwaukee works with Wausau East High School students on their collaborative art projects Thursday, September 21, 2017 at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin.  T'xer Zhon Kha/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Rambadt said he had never been a fan of math, so he didn’t give it the attention it probably deserved in school. Now, years later, he applies the principles of geometry to his work every day, he said, and uses the skills he learned all those years ago.

“When you learn something you think you’ll never use, you have to realize it’s more than what you’re learning,” he said. “It’s about mental capacity. You develop a way of thinking. You may never use that math, but you can use that way of approaching a problem.”

Savannah Carroll and Rayne Holmson, both sophomore art students, were thrilled to meet an artist who makes a living from her career, something they both hope to pursue one day after graduating.

“I thought about my career,” Carroll said. “And people always tell me to pick something realistic. It’s cool to see that (art) is possible.”

Holmson echoed her friend, saying the first session with Rambadt was encouraging for her.

“It’s instructive,” Holmson said, “to see how far you can go.”