New interactive art installation gains campus attention


Emma Bartlett/The Hawks' Herald

Kristen Fissell stands next to her interactive art installation in Global Heritage Hall. Each tag represents things students are proud of.

Emma Bartlett, Arts & Culture Editor

It is not every day that we learn about a stranger’s cherished accomplishments or learning aspirations. Kristen Fissell, a first-year student and visual arts major, is helping the RWU community discover more about each other through her three interactive art installations that are spread across campus.
Each art installation consists of a metal frame wall with a question attached to it. Students can respond to the question by writing on a small paper tag and attaching it to the installation.

“I’m interested in what people wish others knew but maybe don’t ask. Sometimes it’s those unseen things — things we wouldn’t know unless we asked,” said Fissell.

Fissell, who is currently pursuing her second bachelor’s degree after completing a degree in marine and environmental science at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., is a Coast Guard veteran who spent seven years in active duty. This is her first public art installation, and she expressed her excitement in seeing others visit and interact with the sculpture.

When choosing locations for her installations, Fissell targeted three areas: GHH, the university library and outside of the Fine Arts Center. Her questions were all different and consisted of “What is something you want to learn more about?” “What is something you are proud of that you have done in the last year?” and “What do you wish was more understood about you?”

“I thought each of those locations were areas that people would pass by and purposely put them in each location that suited the question’s vibe,” said Fissell.

The installations’ theme focused on drawing information out of people that they would not otherwise show and allowing students to learn about others by approaching the sculpture. Additionally, each installation had its own name: GHH was the wall of accomplishments, the library was the wall of growth, and outside of the fine arts center was the wall of understanding.

Fissell attributed her project’s inspiration to her sculpture classmates. After an in-class prompt asking students to create a sculpture using objects in the art studio, Fissell grabbed a handful of paper tags and wrote a bunch of things on them.

After presenting her project to the class, both students and the professor suggested she should implement her idea in a larger format that allowed people to respond to it themselves. Since the Fine Arts Center already had metal frames available, Fissell simply added foliage around the top for decoration, printed and framed the question and set up the sculpture.

The installations are gaining attraction after only one week on campus — Fissell even received attention while setting up her work in GHH when a student came up and asked her what she was doing. After explaining her project, the student wrote on one of the tags and added it to the installation. Since then, more tags have been added each day.

“I hope that they [students] learn something new about the people that have contributed to these artworks and open our minds to the experiences of other people and what they find important. I think we can never have enough of that,” Fissell said.

Fissell’s installations will remain up for a month. If you would like to add a tag to any of the three installations, you can find her sculptures on the first floor of the library, the first floor of GHH and outside of the Fine Arts Center.