Wake, the largest public art installation ever in New York City’s Times Square, was designed, engineered, sculpted and fabricated at UNC Asheville’s STEAM Studio by an interdisciplinary team of students, faculty and community artists, all led by renowned artist Mel Chin, who was the university’s Black Mountain College Legacy Fellow during the fall of 2017.
Standing amid the giant video advertisements and bustling crowds on Broadway, Wake, with its figurehead of Jenny Lind and the ribs of a giant ship or marine mammal, was unveiled on July 13, 2018, and brought millions of people food for thought about commercialism and climate. The installation was on view in Times Square through Sept. 5, 2018.
Wake was paired with Unmoored, a mixed-reality work Chin created in collaboration with Microsoft, in which Wake appeared to take off skyward, joined by a flotilla of boats, floating above a Times Square submerged due to rising sea levels. Elements of Unmoored were first prototyped by UNC Asheville students in a new media class taught by Chin during the fall of 2017. Three arts institutions teamed to commission the exhibition of Chin’s works in New York City – Times Square Alliance, Queens Museum, and No Longer Empty.
In STEAM Studio, a team led by eight students, and faculty in engineering, art and new media, worked closely with Chin over the entire academic year and into July to complete Wake. By the time fabrication was completed and Wake was trucked to New York and installed in Times Square, some 50 people had contributed their labor.
The three days of round-the-clock work to install the giant sculpture in July 2018 was an arduous and emotional culmination of a year’s worth of hard work, hands-on learning, and creativity.
Letter from Times Square Alliance President Tim Thompkins
UNC Asheville chronicled the effort in a series of videos, including a final reflection by students and faculty in Times Square after installation was completed. You can see the full collection of Wake videos on UNC Asheville’s YouTube page.
UNC Asheville also reported on the Times Square unveiling, and on the earlier stages of the project:
News Release: Wake Opens in New York’s Times Square
UNC Asheville Magazine, Spring 2018: STEAM Studio to Times Square
News Feature: Renowned Artist Mel Chin Engages Students in Projects Bound for New York City
News Media Coverage
Art in America magazine
- UNC Asheville team sees their work unveiled in Times Square
- UNC Asheville’s STEAM Studio collaborates with Mel Chin on Times Square Installation
BPR – Blue Ridge Public Radio
The Architects Newspaper