Pinwheels I designed in response to acts of ethnic intimidation at Lafayette College.
Photographs by Ben Herchenroether, Lafayette College Class of 2012. Thank you, Ben!
The pinwheels, unfolded
The Message: I used the black space to include information of Nishiyama and Johnstone on one side.; on the other side, I included information about my concept and the purpose of the pinwheels. Folders could read the message before they worked. Once folded, the black areas are unseen, and the red and yellow areas were on opposite sides. These areas I left blank so that students could write their own messages.
The Construction: The large white letters were for assembly purposes. I developed this system so that each student could construct the pinwheel easily and quickly. I was able to say simply, "Connect A to A, B to B, and so forth alphabetically," which provided the opportunity to discuss the pinwheels, Nishiyama's story, and larger issues with the students while they worked. The only additional supervision that was required was once the folder ran out of letters, then it was time for the "trick spin move!" The functional assembly method allowed for a very fluid and flexible experience for each folder, without constant questions or instruction from me.
In the spring of 2011, Lafayette College experienced several acts of ethnic intimidation, namely spray-painted swastikas in bathrooms. My advanced art course responded through positive art installations that would illustrate a unified campus against the hate.
I researched the story of Robert Nishiyama, Lafayette College Class of 1952. Nishiyama was the first Japanese student to come to study in the States after Pearl Harbor. He attended Lafayette College through a scholarship provided by Robert Johnstone, who was a Lafayette engineering student before he went to fight for his country and was killed in the same war Nishiyama was training to become a kamikaze pilot. Fortunately, Johnstone created the scholarship to "the enemy" because he believed that wars would cease to exist if cultures understood each other better. Johnstone's vision, combined with Nishiyama's embrace of it, was incredibly insightful and beneficial to the college, America, and the world.
Nishiyama and Johnstone's stories strongly resonated with the project's goal, so I chose to blend their cultures in my installation. I designed easy-to-make pinwheels, an emblem of American culture, through the Japanese art of origami. Then, I printed four hundred of them and brought them to the student body. I asked current Lafayette students to fold the pinwheels and encouraged them to write their own messages of peaceand unity against hate on the pinwheels. While they worked, I told them Johnstone and Nishiyama's stories. Once the pinwheels were complete, I installed them on the main quad of campus using wooden skewers and push pins.
"The Quad Event" was the overarching title of the installations from my class, and we highlighted the project by inviting the entire student body to the quad to experience the installations, to listen to live music, and to enjoy free food and glow sticks. Unfortunately, not long after the event ended, a strong storm came through and I was forced to immediately remove my installation or risk the pinwheels being destroyed and littered across campus.
The message is preserved through the students who participated in the creation of the pinwheels and through those in the community who experienced the pinwheel installation on May 3rd, 2011.
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