For the past two years, crowds at The Railyard have observed digital animations displayed on The Cube. While the 750-square-foot LED screen is hard to miss, it is easy for spectators to overlook the story behind the art.
There are multiple ways for artists to get their art shown on The Cube. The most recent opportunity was an animation workshop held by The Cube Art Project — the Lincoln initiative that is coordinating the art shown on The Cube — at Nebraska Innovation Campus.
The workshop, “Things That Eat,” took place July 23-24 at the Nebraska Innovation Studio. Anyone ages 10 and up could join. During the two-day, six-hour workshop, participants were taught how to use Adobe Photoshop and After Effects in order to create an animation that appeared to be eating.
On Sept. 21, The Cube will begin screening digital art from the young artists who participated in the workshop, along with submissions for the upcoming competition.
During the workshop, young minds tossed around ideas for their animations and gained peer feedback from one another. Katie Wassenmiller, a 13-year-old eighth grader at Irving Middle School, was one of the students who took part in the workshop.
“The environment of the workshop was very creative,” Wassenmiller said. “Everyone came up with something different that always impressed everyone in the group.”
Students in the workshop could center their creations around anything they imagined. In her two days in the workshop, Wassenmiller projected her love of her cat and her friends into her animation.
“The art I created was inspired by my cat, Dexter,” she said. “I asked my friends what they thought he should be eating in the animation and drew what they suggested. I wanted to include my friends and cat in the animation because they are very important to me.”
The animations were created in three steps. First, the artists sketched out their characters and their movements frame-by-frame. They were then taught how to use Adobe Photoshop and After Effects in order to bring their animations to life. After learning the technicalities behind the programs, the students were off and working on their own.
“This workshop helped me to bring my interests in art and in technology together in a useful and creative way,” Wassenmiller said.
Wassenmiller and her classmates’ animations will light up The Cube starting Sept. 21 at 6 p.m.
“It feels so rewarding to have my work seen by people in my community,” Wassenmiller said. “I think the Cube Art Project is important because it teaches advantageous skills while bringing our community together in such a sui generis and modern way.”
Beyond local education, The Cube has been able to reach a wider audience with its biannual digital art competition, which takes art submissions from hundreds of artists that could potentially be displayed on The Cube. With the presentation of animations from the “Things That Eat” workshop, The Cube will also begin screening content from the upcoming competitions.
“We want to bring world-class video art, digital art, animation and moving images to the people of Nebraska,” said Michael Burton, the Cube Art Project’s director. “We want the content to remain fresh both for the people who visit The Railyard and for the vendors and employees down there.”
In March 2016, Lincoln Partners for Public Art Development reached out to Burton because of his past work with film, video art and animation. Since then, he’s been responsible for directing the biannual competitions.
“We did [the first competition] to generate content for the Cube and to catch the attention of artists,” he said. “The strategy is simple; make it competitive, and artists will apply.”
Every six months, Burton advertises worldwide to receive content from artists. For a small fee, an artist from across the globe could send their art to Burton and become part of the competition. Each competition brings hundreds of entries from local and global artists. Tanner Reckling, a recent University of Nebraska Omaha art graduate and runner-up in the most recent Cube Art contest, said the competition is a vital one for Lincoln’s art scene.
“I was surprised it was based in Lincoln, Nebraska, my hometown, and was a venue for the type of digital art practice I was involved in, which does not hardly get a serious platform in the Midwest,” Reckling said.
In Reckling’s last submission, he created a character inspired by the LGBT community. His one-minute animation featured a rainbow-colored, fuzz-covered breakdancer.
“The competition is important for its localness,” he said. “It shows Lincoln is a contender for contemporary art-making sustainability.”
Before each competition, Burton selects a judge who is an established artist in the video art field. For the upcoming competition, which takes place Oct. 4, three-time winner Adrian Regnier will judge.
“Competition keeps the work to a high standard, and it legitimizes landing your art on The Cube,” Burton said.
After all entries have been reviewed and critiqued, three winners are selected. The first place winner receives a $500 cash prize, second place is rewarded $250 and third place receives $100. All funding for the project and competitions is managed by Public Art Lincoln and the Downtown Lincoln Association. Full details can be found on The Cube Art Project’s website.
“I just hope that people will come down to The Railyard, look up when they are eating or drinking or ice skating and enjoy the video art,” Burton said.
This article was originally published in the September 2018 edition of The DN.