This multi story, mixed media public artwork owes its existence to Glenda Phipps, MDC Hialeah Campus Media Center Director. Glenda sent out a call to several Miami artists asking for proposals based on a Center For Disease Control public health initiative that would increase the use of stairs. For MDC Hialeah’s campus the proposal was pragmatic as well as health-centric. They only have one set of elevators to serve the five story building full of classrooms. Michelle Weinstein and I were selected to create murals in the two stairwells at either end of the building. My work was based on the theme of “Rise.” I related common images from the neighborhood to the students’ educational and life journeys.
Author Archives: Tom Virgin
This proposal from 2011 followed a series of collaborations between Michael Hettich and Tom Virgin. After working together in the SWEAT Broadsheet Project, Hettich and Virgin with contributions from Jay Bellicchi and Evan Robarts, worked on creating a series of billboards that merged poetry, visual art, the iconography of Miami, and their mutual concerns about education. The challenge was to create something that could be “read” billboard style, at 65+ mph. Using a metaphor of fish and schools, these works were designed for use on billboards and bus backs in urban Miami neighborhoods.
As always, I am grateful for opportunities to propose for various institutions. The work in this gallery was created fully on paper and in a digital world, however it was not funded for completion in physical reality. I am quite fond of these pieces, and some came close to being realized. Continue reading
The Einstein Cafe watercut aluminum, powdercoat, automotive paint 16 ft x 9 ft x 6 in 2010
This project created an outdoor classroom/ study area for the Math Department at Miami Dade College’s Hialeah Campus. This small campus offers an almost family style administration and faculty as mentors to an urban immigrant and first generation American population of young Hispanic students. Many of their students come from local high schools, including the one I work at. I was one of several artists asked to create a proposal for an underused picnic area that used Albert Einstein as a jumping off point.
The result was this collage of images that came from the life of Einstein, from his youth to his enduring legacy of words and ideas. The work is created from water cut 1/4 inch plate aluminum, powdercoated or painted with automotive paint. The work was installed by TM Development, a general contracting firm with a Cornell trained engineer at its helm. The images were drawn, or cut as relief prints, by the artist and then fabricated from the original images. Each of the images was chosen to create a conversation about Einstein that could be engaged through interdisciplinary study, utilizing both Math and other knowledge about this remarkable man.
INDU: Commensalists and Hand Me Downs Mixed media installation 12 ft x 12 ft x 12 ft 2008
This work came from an earlier residency at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 2006. I finished cutting the plates and printing the prints that came from that residency, while I was in residence at the Oregon College of Art and Craft in 2007. This installation was created for the 2008 AIR Exhibition that brought back all the participating artists for a show. I combined a large drawing, archival digital C-prints, woodcut prints, commercial mesh banners and ephemera to create the effect INDU had on me in 2006.
This work has been featured in a National Parks Publication,
Stilts and Cranes three watercut sculptures in cypress frame elements, benches, slate black board element, Stiltsville structure with roof 2007
This work was commissioned by Schools of Choice/Magnet Schools for an interior courtyard of one of the oldest schools in Miami Dade County Public Schools. Using the original blueprints from the school district and site visits, I designed an outdoor classroom for approximately 30 students that included seating, a blackboard and sculpture elements. At three of four compass points I placed images of things that could be found at the corresponding compass point: To the East, I made a relief print (watercut aluminum/powdercoated) of Stiltsville and Biscayne Bay that was supported in a structure reminiscent of the Stiltsville houses out on the Bay, incorporating a large natural slate chalkboard; To the West, I made a relief print (watercut aluminum/ powdercoated) of a Sand Hill Crane in the Everglades, a resident of the Everglades’ ecosystem; To the South, in a nod to the rampant construction in the early 2000’s, I made an image of the Construction Cranes that were seemingly everywhere in the sky. Seating was provided near each image on three 12 ft x 12 ft square concrete slabs using concrete pillars (stamped with both Sand Hill and Construction Cranes) and native Cypress plank seats.
A landscape plan with native plants and wildlife attracting, flowering shrubs through the generosity of Rick Yasko, Landscape Architect and Visual Artist. Both the landscape plan and my original design were created to supply an ongoing conversation between this classic 1920’s Spanish Courtyard, the vanishing community of Stiltsville, the Everglades with its indigenous species of wildlife, and the rapid changes to the urban Brickell corridor.
Duty and Remembrance, ID Wall 16 ft x 12 ft x 6 in watercut aluminum with powdercoat 2006
Duty and Remembrance, Towers with Fire Fighter 8 ft x 3 ft x 4 ft watercut aluminum with powdercoat 2006
This two part work was completed for the Florida Keys Council of the Arts and Monroe County Art in Public Places. This piece was awarded in 2006 and completed in 2007. After a site visit, conversations with the Chief, and talks with fire fighters in the Grove, I began my proposal. I combined images of places that the fire fighters frequented while they were off duty with a tribute to fire fighters who lost their lives while they were on duty. The wave elements on the ID wall came from Japanese iconography. The fire fighter with the axe was a portrait that I did of a retiring veteran fire fighter in the Grove. The same fire fighter was my model for the fire fighter at rest, leaning on the tower elements.
INDU Banner mesh banner 60 ft x 16 ft 2007-2008
In 2007 during the frenzy leading up to Art Basel/Miami Beach, Chris Ingalls of Ingalls & Associates offered me a wall. Delighted, I asked “where”? She pointed at the 60 ft x 16 ft wall on the west side of her gallery space. I was sorting and processing the images that were to become the book, INDU: Commensalists and Hand Me Downs, and welcomed the opportunity to create something that would use the space. As is often the case, my projects take a significant amount of time to complete, and evolve as I work on them. This banner preceded the small installation I created for Oregon College of Art and Craft’s 2008 Artist in Residence Exhibition following my residency there in summer 2007.
The echo of the environment surrounding Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (INDU), was evident in the not quite gentrified atmosphere of Wynwood. During installation I saw the inhabitants of Wynwood without the art loving crowds in place. It was a significantly different place. As different as the urban corridor in Northern Indiana between Gary, Indiana and Michigan City, Michigan was from the National Park located just North of I-94. Different struggles with similar attributes made this odd billboard fit right in.
He Said, She Said 9 ft x 12 ft x 6 in 2008
This work came from a very old drawing, carefully preserved in my wallet for almost 20 years. The works both small and large are watercut PVC with fabric collage. It now resides in Gainesville, Florida in a private collection. The smaller work with more intricate collage is approximately 3 ft x 4 ft.
Today Is 3 in x 9 in x .5 in 2011
This book was a collaboration between Tom Virgin and Michael Hettich for Arthur Jaffe’s 90th Birthday. Hettich and Virgin related years of teaching experience to a school of fish. This book is one of several collaborations by the two that revolve around teaching and learning.Arches 88 is the paper used for the accordion fold body of the work, and Unryu wrapped book boards provide the covers.
This book is an editon of 5. Evan Robarts and Fifty-Five have also collaborated on the faux Priority labels that are collaged into the book.