Six local high school students’ creativity will unfold at a temporary architectural work alongside the efforts of top national designers during the Aug. 26 Exhibit Columbus opening.

The exhibition element of Exhibit Columbus is a new exploration of art, architecture and design — one that organizers expect to bring about 10,000 people to the city’s downtown to see what is known as pop-up architecture over a three-month stretch until late November. The installations, to be built next to iconic local structures, are meant to offer perspective or commentary on a number of those buildings, from Eero Saarinen’s First Christian Church to I.M. Pei’s Bartholomew County Public Library.

The students’ creation will be placed next to the LHP Building at Seventh and Washington streets, organizers said. Two separate high school teams each have designed a structure for the property. In the coming days, professional architects who have guided the students will pick one structure for the spot.

Kelly Wilson, an artist and architect serving as director of the Indiana University Center for Art + Design, praised the efforts of the high school students that he and others have worked with on a weekly basis since fall. Also helping has been center designer-in-residence Jee Yea Kim, landscape architect Randy Royer and contractor Travis Perry.

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“I want them to give the Miller Prize recipients a run for their money,” Wilson said.

Wilson has great respect for the five professional design teams selected for the Exhibit Columbus top prizes named for the late J. Irwin Miller, who launched Columbus’ design program with world-renowned architects more than 75 years ago, and his late wife, Xenia Miller, also a strong, national proponent of art and architecture. But he also wanted to encourage the students to exceed expectations, even though some had not previously used a three-dimensional design software program, SketchUp.

Mila Lipinski, a Columbus East High School senior hoping to study architecture in college, saw the opportunity as a good way to get introduced to the field and develop some basic skills.

She soon discovered that the Sunday afternoon meetings to brainstorm and learn became a highlight of her week. She also came to a realization about residents and others eventually interpreting her team’s project, “Between the Threads,” a hanging-rope, multi-colored maze.

Students say it was inspired partly by interior designer Alexander Girard, whose vivid work locally is a part of the Miller House.

“Part of architecture is personal,” Lipinski said. “It’s what you yourself make of it. That’s what makes it relevant to each of us.”

Lipinski said this work has meant enough to her that she will return in the fall — after graduating from high school — to see the student installation.

“Even if I end up halfway around the world,” she said, “I still will come back.”

Columbus North High School senior Jane Phillips called participating in the effort an honor and described her adult mentors as inspiring.

She likes the way “Between the Threads” borrows from colors in nearby structures such as architect Paul Kennon’s AT&T Switching Center.

“We felt it was very important to connect both with the (LHP) site and the history of Columbus (architecture),” Phillips said.

Lapinski and Phillips are both on the “Between the Threads” team, working with North senior Tim Cox and North sophomore Kyle Kingen.

Columbus East senior Tim Rix and East junior Josie Royer make up the second design, which came up with “Chevron,” a bright red, angular canopy that would stretch over part of the LHP building’s lawn and sidewalk, with seating underneath.

Royer, whose father is landscape architect Randy Royer, has definite ideas about what she hopes viewers will notice with her team’s design.

“I want people to see Chevron as a sophisticated design that represents Columbus through its eye-catching color and the ability bring passersby into a calm space where they can interact with one another,” she said.

Wilson said his mentoring work with the high school students has opened his eyes to far more than imparting guidance and wisdom.

“The schools here really must teach students how to learn,” Wilson said, adding that he is impressed with the high schoolers’ eagerness, intelligence and solid ideas. That’s how the push for a high school-led installation morphed into two teams.

“After teaching 30-odd years in graduate programs in the Ivys, I certainly know how to spot kids who have talent,” Wilson said. “And these students have it. There’s something extra.”

Funding for Exhibit Columbus, including the prize money, has come from individuals, foundations and corporations throughout Indiana. Exhibit Columbus is a project of Landmark Columbus, a program of Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County.

About the two proposals

Two teams of high school students have proposed distinctly different architectural Exhibit Columbus installations for the LHP Building at Seventh and Washington streets. Organizers soon will select just one for the site.

  • “Between the Threads” was designed to be a multi-colored, 10-foot rope panels maze inspired by interior designer Alexander Girard’s vivid artwork. The colorful rope is supported by white galvanized pipe, allowing the installation to make a contextual connection with both the nearby AT&T Switching Center pipes and the white trellis near the LHP site. Cube-shaped seats, accompanied by rope ceilings for shade, are spread throughout the installation. Team members: Mila Lipinski, Columbus East, and Jane Phillips, Tim Cox and Kyle Kingen, Columbus North.
  • “Chevron” was designed to be a modern, stretched canopy that boldly protrudes over the sidewalk. The design uses red, a color representative of Columbus architecture, to catch the eye of people walking or driving past. It also features white modular seating with an ergonomic form. Chevron is meant to invite people in to lay back, look up and enjoy the interactive, shady space. Team members: Tim Rix and Josie Royer, Columbus East.

Pull Quote

“After teaching 30-odd years in graduate programs in the Ivys, I certainly know how to spot kids that have talent. And these students have it. There’s something extra.”

— Kelly Wilson, director of the Indiana University Center for Art + Design

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.