Educating local students through Changing Gears

One of the goals of the City of Lancaster's Public Art Program and Public Art Advisory Board is to seek and develop collaborative opportunities for artists to work with the community and to seek an educational component for every project.

Recently, artists Ulrich Pakker and his wife, Pamela installed one of the city's newest pieces of public art located in Crystal Park titled, "Changing Gears." During their visit they met with students in the after school programs at Buchanan, Lafayette and Fulton elementary schools.

To prepare for the Pakker's visit, Public Art Manager, Tracy Beyl, made several visits to each school to share images of Ulrich's past work as well as the model and drawings for "Changing Gears”. Tracy explained how Ulrich met with everyone on the project planning committee, as well as people who lived in the neighborhood, to learn more about the park and neighborhood so he could develop an idea that really reflected the community. Tracy also talked about public art and how it can be something functional like a bike rack, bench, or lighting; or it could be something like a monument, fountain, or mural.

The students were then instructed to create their own sculptures using K'NEX. This was a great medium of choice as the students already loved playing with them and they have a lot of cool gear shapes, just like Ulrich's sculpture!

This wasn't the Public Art Program's first time interacting with the city's after school program. Earlier in the year the after school program had a great experience on a field trip to Brandon Park to learn about the sculpture, "Revolutions." The students and city were reunited again with the help of Lucy Zimmerman, Director of Children's Services at the Lancaster REC who was a part of the project planning committee for "Changing Gears." Lucy connected the city with Buchanan, Lafayette and Fulton after school programs because students at these schools are the closest to Crystal Park.

Ulrich and Pamela visited each school bringing along not only pictures of "Changing Gears" but also other sculptures Ulrich created. They also brought along the "Changing Gears" model to explain the project and how the model helps the artist to work out the size of each sculptural component and their positioning. Student's also learned about "Changing Gears" LED-lit fountain that uses water drawn from an underground rainwater-fueled well and how this will help with storm water collection.

The students loved creating and naming their sculptures with guidance and encouragement from their teachers. They were so excited to meet Ulrich and to show him their creations! "It was a great interaction with a part of the Lancaster community." said Ulrich. "You never know when a young person may decide to be an artist and it's always exciting to hear their responses and questions."

They were also really excited for their parents to hear about the project and see the sculptures they had been working on. One boy was particularly excited once he realized that the park where the sculpture was being installed was right next to his dad's tattoo shop. The next day his dad went down to the park to introduced himself to Ulrich and Pamela and share his son's experience.

Have you visited "Changing Gears?" Has it inspired you to create your own sculpture or use it as a focus in your classroom? If you have, share it with us on the LancasterArts Facebook page! We want to see how Lancaster's public art educates and inspires you.

By Natalie Lascek-Speakman, Public Art Advisory Board