Students Attract Audience of Millions — for Class

Computer Art Students Display Work in ‘Art on the Marquee’

Duvivier Guignard, in front of his piece "Stacks," one of two UMass Lowell student animations chosen to run on the LED marquee outside the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

Duvivier Guignard, in front of his piece "Stacks," one of two UMass Lowell student animations chosen to run on the LED marquee outside the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

06/05/2013
By Julia Gavin

Exposure to a wide audience is one of the most important yet nerve-wracking experiences young artists face. While most students show work to classmates, professors and friends, two of Asst. Prof. Ellen Wetmore’s Computer Arts I students will share theirs with an audience of millions.

Duvivier Guignard and Nick Broadway have original animations running through June on the 80-foot-tall, seven-screen LED marquee outside the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston. “Art on the Marquee” is presented by Boston Cyberarts and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority to show public art along with its usual commercial and informational content. The student projects will play for approximately 10 minutes of every hour between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. through June 30.

While Wetmore showcased her own art on the screen last year, this is the first time student work has been shown. Wetmore’s students were among just 10 proposals selected, along with others from Emerson, Mass Art, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Fitchburg State University.

“The students had to design work that uses the unusual shape of the screen, plays well to the public, and doesn’t require sound – these specifications informed their proposals,” says Wetmore, who required her students to apply as coursework. “The jury was thrilled by the breadth of material. Everyone used the space differently and used new skills they had and developed new ones.”

Guignard’s piece, “Stacks,” follows two characters robbing a second-floor apartment with a surprise.

“One robber waits in the bottom level and catches the items thrown off the fire escape by the robber on top,” says Guignard. “The items stack on top of each other, and it gets too heavy. Then the robbers are interrupted by a rabbit that knocks over the stack.”

Broadway’s animation, “Crash,” also follows characters as they move through the marquee’s several screens. His plan to use all of the available space and ability to coordinate the seven screens impressed the judges.

“The project changed from my original idea when I mocked it up and noticed eight seconds of empty space in one area,” says Broadway, who wants to work in game design. 

Both students used several programs to create their projects, designing in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop before moving in to After Effects for animation, which was a new experience for them. Wetmore’s husband, Jeff Warmouth, helped students at each school work with the show through Boston Cyberarts.

“Using After Effects was the biggest challenge,” says Guignard. “Ellen and Jeff really made the process a lot easier through their help.”

While working on the projects, the students knew their audience would be large, but couldn’t really fathom how many people might see their work. When Broadway went to Pax East with 60,000 other attendees at the convention center, he looked up at the marquee and suddenly had a better idea of the numbers of people about to see ”Crash.” “That was definitely exciting,” says Broadway. 

Since launching in early May, the students’ animations have been seen by hundreds of thousands of Bostonians and visitors to the city with more to come by the end of June. While the exposure is thrilling for the young artists, the experience of designing for a public audience in a challenging space with professional jurying was priceless.

“I learned what to expect from now on and how much work and dedication it will take to get a project done and shown,” says Guignard. “However, it’s all worth it in the end.”