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Chelmsford High Grad Aims to Create Art, Care for Environment

Josh Shiau is a student at the Rhode Island School of Design and is participating in an ambitious project.

Chelmsford High Josh Shiau, a student at Rhode Island School of Design, is taking part in a project to create and display a giant sculpture using 100% recycled materials and crowdsourced art from everyday people across the world.

Project Pinwheel, Shiau said, will be used as a statement on our commitment to a sustainable future and the power of community. The sculpture - an "Art Car" which will serve numerous purposes including vehicle, shelter, and art - will be on display in the Burning Man Festival in Black Rock, Nevada.

The group has a Kickstarter page to raise money for the project.

1. Tell me about the project and why were you interested in participating.

The initial idea came from a vague shared desire to build a huge inspiring sculpture. Burning Man naturally presented itself as the ideal stage for our art, being a venue made up of a community of artists, performers and tinkerers from across the country gather to build a self sustainable community founded on the ideals of self expression, inclusiveness, and individualism for one week every year in the Nevada desert.

This also required us to find a way to transport our art there, which eventually evolved into our current design for the RISD Art Car to act as a self sufficient vehicle, sculpture, and home to us for the duration of the event. In line with the philosophy of the Burning Man we are aiming to use 100% recycled materials for our project ...

Artists usually put a big emphasis on self-expression, which forms a very large part of our character. It is an idea not influenced by public appeal, fame, or commercial success.

But what if we could what if we could extend self-expression beyond the self to the entire world? What if by expressing our ideas we could empower not just ourselves but the entire global community?

This idea became the conceptual basis for what is now Project Pinwheel.

By reaching out to people around the world to submit their own artwork, whether in the form of drawing, painting, photography, poetry, prose, or anything thing else they can imagine, we can take part in the spirit of creativity of community and bring it to life in a harmonious, functional form. That is what Project Pinwheel is really about, and why I am excited to be a part of the team that is building, driving, living in, and displaying this inspirational work.

2. Have you always been interested in sustainability?

Conservation is not something new to me. Both as a student of RISD and a Eagle Scout from Chelmsford’s own Troop 212, I am well aware of good environmental practice and our responsibility to the earth. A couple years ago as part of my Eagle Project I spearheaded an initiative to control invasive species on Jones Farm. It focused on the safe and natural elimination of invasive plant species that was quickly spreading on the farm as well as opening a farm path for safer travel. ...

As a youth I don’t think the concept of sustainability is very complicated. Even without abstract ideals or dramatic projections, at the core of it we are simply protecting what was passed down to us.

It's what the forefathers had in mind when they founded Chelmsford and wrote the town motto: “Let the children guard what the sires have won." The way I see it, we have a duty to take care what was given to us and ensure it is something we can pass down to future generations.

3. Do you have ideas or strategies as to how you think this project will come together?

We believe by drawing on the community of artists, friends, family, our respective hometowns, and whoever wants to participate we can help to create a global network to help fund, support, and contribute their own voice to our cause. We sincerely believe that creativity and community are the best tools to change the world, and if we as youth in higher education are expected to be the ones shaping a brighter future, than we better start getting familiar with them now.

We are just starting the funding phase now. Following that, we will continue to our gathering phase, during which we will continue collect submitted pinwheels and donations, as well as potential material to build our car. Next is the four-week construction period in the summer, where we will gather the rest of our materials and build the actual superstructure on the car. The exhibition phase involves the journey from our base in California to the Burning Man grounds in Black Rock, Nevada, where we will then set up and parade around the desert environment to display the sculpture and pinwheels in all their collective glory.

4. How do you think you'll feel once the project is completed and on display?

I will actually be with the project from start to finish, helping to oversee and take part in the actual construction and display of the Art Car. Just seeing pinwheels come in from all over the world will is an unbelievably inspiring thing, it really helps you to appreciate the power of people coming together to accomplish something. I have no doubt that this will have a very large impact on me for the rest of my life. We plan on sharing some of this experience through an ongoing documentary we will bring home and developing blog updates on our site.

5. What help is needed from the community and how can people get involved?

Each pinwheel we're putting on the car requires an apparatus to attach it to the car. We may need a larger apparatus that allows all of them to detatch/reattach, as the car will be moving at highway speeds on the way to Burning Man.

The idea is for the price of school lunch, you can take part in the grand creative community experiment that is Project Pinwheel. In addition to helping us display your work, this project will require a lot of time, effort, material, and money to carry out, and we need your help to handle some of logistics of this immense undertaking.

Check out the group's page on Kickstarter  for more information.

Simon DeLaPlaya February 29, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Newbs are so cute before they get jaded dusty and bitter...;-) Good luck on your Adventure!!
Poetic Justice February 29, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Oh Simon, I was thinking the same, the rocky mountains destroys art projects, just an FYI All the best luck on your expereince Poetic Justice
Its not coachella kids... February 29, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Holy moop for days. Learn what moop is first. Go see, then build, it helps. Calling it the R.I.S.D. art car is also like calling mine the Google-Macintosh-University of Minnesota mobile. We don't care about rhode island school of design...Go to the burn first, then make your school project at school and show people there. Wow the internet pumps everyone up about the burn. Your things will break and your plans will change. Eagle scouts should be able to figure it out right?
Susy March 01, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Stupid jaded burners who cannot do anything but whine about other peoples endeavors! I hope none of you get tickets this year! Go for it Josh and I hope to see your work on the playa this year! See you in the dust!
darius March 01, 2012 at 03:32 AM
The post is a bit hostile, but he's right about the name. BM is time when people escape from the traditional branding elements of our commercialized society. RISD is an unfriendly reminder of the "real world". Not sure why the commenter is assuming that this group has never been to BRC before though. I don't think that they have stated whether or not they have ever attended the event. It's seems odd that the group is planning on using the art-car as a means of transportation to the event. I seriously doubt the vehicle will be legally fit for the road. You will likely have to tow the thing to the playa. I salute the ambition and initiative that the group has taken, but the project could use some editing. What is this about? Pinwheels, recycling, crowd-sourcing...there is a lot going on. Having people send you thousands of pinwheels seems wasteful. The spiral motif in your car is enough of an homage to your theme. You don't have to say pinwheel, and show pinwheel...it's a bit redundant. best of luck with everything, d.
c March 01, 2012 at 02:55 PM
yeah man! go for it! y'all - he's a RISD student. great. that's how he identifies himself at this moment. that will likely change on the playa. let it. let him. or not. why does it matter to you anyway? i love him for his enthusiasm and effort!!! blessings on you, shorty and see you on the playa!
Pete Griffin March 04, 2012 at 11:20 AM
What's the difference between hyping a corporation and hyping your school at the sold out cool kid event?
NevadaGeo March 10, 2012 at 06:10 AM
It would be a good idea to find out if your project might be awarded an invite to the gate, before a lot of advertising or transportation. It shouldn't look like a production vehicle to start. It shouldn't moop-poop my Nevada. It was interesting to watch another school shop teacher have his students' vehicle get rejected on playa a few years ago. Read the DMV rules, it might save a lot of angst. Here's knowing you have and will present to processing the best inspiring, detailed, illustrated application they've had in years. You already have written part of your "intent" statement, and you're inferring that it will be radically mutated by using recycled materials. Radically mutated can mean that it's not necessarily street legal anymore. You don't show a picture here, but they won't want to see an identifiable Dodge or Ford, etc truck hood, or unmutated bus, or back of a bus when you present to the DMV.
joshiau March 23, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Dear Burners, Thanks for all your input and support! As a community-based initiative, there is nothing more important to us than having your voice heard. As the name RISD in our organization never represented any formal affiliation with our school, but only rather what we brought us together, we have changed the official title of our team to simply the Project Pinwheel Team, and are thus reflected in all our official documentation and sites. As far as the design of the car goes, we are aware of what highway speed winds and sandstorms could do to the pinwheel elements, and have been experimenting with modular pieces and various shields to ensure the pinwheels stay intact and do not contribute to litter. We are keeping in mind the possibility of having to tow the sculpture, but we are continuing to design the vehicle so that it can at least function as a mutant vehicle on-site. What is feasible will become clearer as we round out the design and construction of our car, so keep checking back for updates!
joshiau March 23, 2012 at 08:35 PM
We are still in the mid-prototyping stage, feel free to check out videos of our 3D virtual model as well as the features on our physical scale model here on our site: http://risd-artcar.webnode.com/designprocess/ Our Kickstarter is on the final countdown, and we would love to have your voice join us in our mission to promote community and the arts! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/481362140/project-pinwheel? As always input is always appreciated! Project Pinwheel Team
NevadaGeo March 24, 2012 at 05:02 AM
It seems there is a gap in your Kickstarter time line. You should include doing the application process to the DMV (Burning Man Department of Mutant Vehicles) by April in order to get an invite to bring your MV to the gate at Burning Man. Without the emailed invitation in hand, the MV won't be allowed in the gate. Several of the very large projects are rejected every year for missing the deadline on the application. http://www.burningman.com/on_the_playa/playa_vehicles/criteria.html

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