A! Magazine for the Arts

Arthur Brill with 'Ctrl/Command,' a commission that was installed in Times Square in New York City for the Spring/Break Art Fair.

Arthur Brill with 'Ctrl/Command,' a commission that was installed in Times Square in New York City for the Spring/Break Art Fair.

Arthur Brill brings the Wolf Crystal to life

June 26, 2019

What do you do when you need a 5 foot tall Wolf Crystal sculpture? The Virginia Highlands Festival contacted Arthur Brill. How did they find Brill? Friendship.

"Jerry Veneziano, a friend of mine who is a blacksmith, contacted me on Facebook. He told me he's known Becky Caldwell since grade school, and when she told him about the project, I was the first person he thought of," Brill says. Caldwell is the executive director of the festival.

Caldwell told Brill "The Wolf Crystal"story and explained what the festival needed from him.

"Becky explained the story to me, and I created a concept sketch. As the story developed, and more importantly, the way the story was going to play out over the course of the week of the festival, the design needed to be adjusted. I have an extensive background in creating sets and props for film and theater, so I'm used to working with directors and making my designs fit into the needs of a production,"Brill said.

The design had to be changed to add a portability aspect. In the story, the wolf crystal is stolen. When the demands of the story meant that the crystal would need to be moved around town, the planning committee realized that you couldn't easily transport a 5-foot-tall sculpture. So, they decided that the crystal needed a "heart"that would be easy to carry.

"It is essentially a piece with four distinct elements. First is the 60-inch-tall crystal column. As this is an outdoor event, the piece needs to have some real physical presence. It needs to read from a distance and engage people. The general rule for outdoor sculpture is 'the bigger, the better.' Even life-size bronze statues outdoors seem small. That is why a typical outdoor bronze is at least 9 feet tall. This portion will be made of plexiglass panels which create each face of the faceted crystal.

"The next part is the base. In order to create a wolf theme, I thought it would be neat to have crystals radiating from the bottom in the shape of wolf heads. These will be sculpted in clay and cast in a clear resin into a rubber mold.

"The third part is the removable piece. This is where the design was altered to have a piece that can be moved around town. We call it the 'football,' because it will be about the size of a football. It will seat into the main column and have its own internal lighting.

"This brings us to the fourth phase ... the lighting. The lights will be LEDs, with a programmable controller, as well as sensors to make it interactive with the performers.

"There's actually also a fifth part to the design, but it is a surprise,"Brill said.

Brill will install the crystal in the sculpture garden at William King Museum of Art. An invitation only event is held July 15 at 8:30 p.m. at the museum, when Brill will speak and demonstrate the sculpture, so the audience can see how it illuminates itself.

This isn't Brill's first outdoor interactive sculpture.

"Actually, I just worked on a project that had many similarities to this project. I was hired by a Richmond artist, Noah Scalin, as project manager and fabricator for a commission that was installed outside in Times Square in New York for the Spring/Break art fair. It also had plexiglass, required some sculpting and special finishing and had programmable lights inside. Bob Cassavecchi did the lighting controls for that project, and he is also the lighting designer for this project, which was called 'Ctrl/Command.'

"I also have a team of sculptors, mold makers, 3D modelers, and carpenters on board for this project. I don't always get to be as hands-on for my projects as I'd like, but the truth is, most public art projects are done by a team of people under the direction of an artist. I love working like that, whether it is my design, or that of another artist," he says.

About Brill
The son of an engineer, Brill combined his childhood love of model making and creating Halloween decorations with his technical background in architectural and mechanical drafting to create a career in the entertainment industry beginning with film and theater.

In addition to scenic arts, he learned professional techniques in sculpting, moldmaking and casting and has worked in a wide variety of materials including wood, steel, plastics, foams, fiberglass and more. Among his projects are the creation of an 18-foot-tall wooden model of the U.S. Capitol building, a rotating fountain in partnership with Kusser Fountainworks and a parade float inspired by horse-drawn hearses and stem-powered calliopes.

His work includes designing haunted houses for private venues and theme parks, creating seasonal displays and creating sculpture and fountains for church grounds and sanctuaries. He is the owner of Behind the Curtain, Ashland Virginia's, first designated artist studio, and is an activist for artists.

Bridgeforths create concept art and animation