Obelisk artist Joshua Wiener visits Southwood art classes

By Gary Alan Ruse….

Artist Joshua Wiener (left) discusses the project with art magnet teacher Jenifer Berse while students work.

Joshua Wiener, the Colorado-based artist who recently completed installation of his artwork on the traffic circle obelisk at SW 168th Street and 87th Avenue in Palmetto Bay, made a two-hour presentation to three classes of art students at Southwood Middle School on Wednesday on June1.

The students, two-thirds of whom are in the school’s art magnet sixth grade classes, gathered in Southwood’s auditorium for the first part of the special program, a talk and slide show by the artist on how the project came about and why he chose the design that he did.

Wiener gave the students an inspirational and informative address on being an artist, on how he approaches each project from the initial idea through development and completion, and on connecting with people through his art.

“The real value in how to refine yourself as an artist, or in anything, is in practice,” Wiener told them. “Every time you pick up a paintbrush or a stone chisel and work on something you get better.”

Also attending the presentation in the auditorium were Jenifer Berse, an art magnet teacher whose class was involved; Beatriz Llano, director of the school’s magnet program, and Palmetto Bay Mayor Shelley Stanczyk, who spoke briefly about the project.

The second half of the program saw the combined classes gather in Berse’s classroom, where Wiener gave the students miniature obelisks made of white plaster that the young artists were then able to decorate with paint and markers in whatever manner their creative imaginations devised. Wiener brought with him 60 obelisks, each about a foot high, that he had cast from molds.

Student Cameron Belez said she enjoyed the presentation and thought it made the art more real.

“It means a lot to me because I’ve loved art all my life,” Belez said. “This is basically what I want to do, and to have a person who has done this all his life, it inspires me a lot and tells me what options I have in art for my future. It means a lot more to me than just hearing about the guy, having him come in and speak to us.”

Wiener moved from table to table, speaking with each student about their approach to the project, encouraging them without restricting their creativity in any way.

“I really look at public art as an opportunity to work with the language that’s circling through the community, and getting to work with students — emerging artists — is fantastic advancement of what public art is,” Wiener said in an interview after the presentation. “It’s the community’s art, and working with the community’s imagination and inspiration is what a public sculpture should do.”

Berse watched proudly as her students and the others worked on their small obelisks and interacted with Wiener and his message.

“I think it’s really great any time you can bring an artist to the kids for inspiration,” Berse said. “It means so much to them.”

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