Yet Another Use for Duct Tape

University of the Arts students create duct-tape sculptures to be exhibited at June festival celebrating America’s favorite fix-all

May 12, 2010

America’s favorite fix-all since its World War II introduction, duct tape has been used for just about anything – from saving lives early in America's space exploration program to lining kitchen shelves. And now 12 students from the University of the Arts have found yet another use: sculpture.

Utilizing thousands of rolls of colored duct tape, the students created work ranging from a VW bus to a life-sized kneeling Ghandi, from seahorses to a yellow submarine (that actually floats). The work will be on display on campus in Gallery One through May 13 before heading to Ohio as one of the main attractions for the more than 300,000 visitors to the 7th annual Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival, June 18 – 20. Cash prizes of $1,000, $750 and $500 will be awarded to the top three student sculptures as voted on by a jury and the public. Travel to the festival for all 12 students was made possible by a University faculty research grant.

The three-day event celebrates duct tape, its enthusiasts, and its wacky and fun uses with the theme "Peace, Love and Duck Tape." The festival also honors the history and heritage of the city proclaimed as the "Duct Tape Capital" of the world – Avon, Ohio – the home of Duck brand duct tape. From sculptures and fashion to games and a parade, everything at the festival revolves around duct tape.

A classically trained stone carver, Joe Girandola brought duct tape culture to the University of the Arts when he was hired this past summer as the director of the University's Master of Fine Arts program in Ceramics, Painting and Sculpture. And he's doing his best to spread the word of duct tape art. Soon after reaching campus, Girandola began working with University administration to launch the undergraduate "Pictorial Elements" class, in which the 12 duct tape students created their art. He also staged the all-duct tape exhibition "Horse Sense" in the University’s Gallery 817 in September.  In addition, he worked with ShurTech, Duck Brand's parent company, on securing the prize money that three University of the Arts students will receive at the Duct Tape Festival.

Girandola began utilizing duct tape to create large-scale drawings during an art residency in Omaha, Neb., in 1989. Just a start, those drawings were followed by a large-scale sculpture of the right hand of Michelangelo's "David" made out of Styrofoam and duct tape, and more work that wound up being exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and in Kunsthalle, Vienna, in addition to being featured at the Gwangju and Korea Biennials.

Girandola created so much duct tape work that Duck Brand Duct Tape reached out to him about becoming a sponsored artist. He eventually became the lead sponsored artist and exhibited his work at the Duck Brand corporate headquarters. His work from the 6th annual Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival is now part of the ShurTech corporate collection.

Above: Class collaboration of floating duct-tape submarine.

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