With the construction of a building, people may expect new furniture or facilities. After the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center University Center construction, students can anticipate an interactive art piece.
PULSE, which is TTUHSC’s new art piece, was presented during a media availability March 22 at the construction site for the University Center Building located on the TTUHSC campus. PULSE is a light-emitting diode screen that presents an animated representation of how the human heart works in the body.
According to a TTUHSC news release, the piece, which was created by artist Adam Frank, is 11 feet tall and 8 feet wide.
Frank, who is a public artist and lighting designer with a company called Adam Frank Incorporated, said he went with this direction for the University Center’s art piece because he wanted something that was reactive to the people who will enter and exit the building.
“What does it mean to the institution? What’s the functionality of the piece itself to the institution,” he said regarding how brainstorming an idea for a public art piece starts. “My work innovates both conceptually and technically both at the same time.”
For inspiration, Frank said he starts his projects based on where they will be placed. Due to the TTUHSC being a science and medical institution, he said he wanted the art piece to reflect that theme.
Frank said the piece is embedded in the walls and there are sensors counting when people are entering and exiting the University Center. He said the rate at which the animated heart beats emulates the rate of people entering and exiting the building.
“It’s really reactive and animated by the actual occupants of the building itself,” Frank said.
When thinking of the perfect artwork idea and designing PULSE, Frank said a lot of thought goes into choosing the right approach.
“It ties the site-specific nature of it. It locks it into the people here,” Frank said. “It’s really about the people. My artwork is about the viewer really, it’s about who sees it.”
Frank said artists have to be careful with public art, such as PULSE, because it has to last for a long time.
“There’s also a covering over the LEDs,” he said. “That is not something that’s done in the industry. I just kind of came up with it for this piece to make it look more organic, so you don’t see the pixels, you see more fuzzy pixels that protects the LEDs but makes it more fluid looking.”
In addition to the schematics of an art piece, such as PULSE, the impact of art on the institution is a factor an artist may consider.
Tech System Chancellor and President of TTUHSC Dr. Tedd Mitchell said with any construction project that costs more than $1 million is typically funded by donors or the state. The System uses 1 percent of the proceeds of the building to fund a public art piece.
“As time has progressed, and as the scope of the buildings have gotten larger, and the artwork itself has gotten more elaborate,” he said. “In this particular piece, what we’re looking for is this is going to be the epicenter for traffic flow for guests in the Health Sciences Center.”
Since the upcoming University Center will be the first checkpoint for TTUHSC visitors, Mitchell said the institution needed an art piece that expressed the theme of medical sciences and the nature of the TTUHSC community.
“We’re very, very proud of it,” he said regarding PULSE. “We hope that when people leave here, they may forget other things about the building, but they won’t forget the artwork.”
Despite the sole impact of PULSE on the HSC, there could be other effects public art has on the system.
Emily Wilkinson, public art director for Tech Facilities Planning and Construction, said it is amazing to be on a campus where art is everywhere.
“It helps to beautify it,” she said. “It also gives people something to think about when they’re walking around and really helps them identify with different locations on campus.”
For the system, Wilkinson said public art helps the institutions stand out. She hopes public art will encourage people to visit places in the system, such as the new University Center.
“It will be hard to forget this lobby when you walk in and see this giant beating heart,” she said. “It’s really nice, not just so we have public art throughout the system, but that it’s really specialized to each location, so it gives it kind of its own personality.”