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Lockwood's Perfect Puzzle

President Tripathi and Professor Ben van Dyke (right) look at the installation's details during the April 22 ribbon cutting, which was part of UB's Signature Series.

Photos by Douglas Levere

Article by Robert Poleszak

Published May 16, 2014

Notice anything different about Lockwood’s 2nd floor corridor recently? If you suddenly find yourself mesmerized by the ceiling above, the new Lockwood installation has done its job.

“We have all this blank canvas, and a school filled with talented students. We never really asked the students to contribute to that canvas.”
Nancy Kielar, Assistant Vice President and Chief of Staff
CIO Administrative Operations

Robert Poleszak (UB Student, Class of 2014) is a senior marketing student who hails from Brooklyn, NY. In his free time, he enjoys reading, swimming and binge watching sitcoms on Netflix. Upon graduating in May, he hopes to write for advertising agencies in New York City.

A Blank Canvas

A new brightly colored ceiling installation, which is called a Praxis, also known as a practice or test, looks to celebrate the university’s distinction in arts. On April 22, the space had its official unveiling as part of UB's Signature Series.

The installation inspired plenty of conversation during the ribbon cutting.

The project was spearheaded by Nancy Kielar, Assistant Vice President and Chief of Staff with CIO Administrative Operations. “I see the campus as an opportunity,” said Nancy. “We have all this blank canvas, and a school filled with talented students. We never really asked the students to contribute to that canvas.”

Nancy began contacting professors from across the university, and received responses from Ben van Dyke (Visual Studies) and Erich Frank (Theatre).

“Before I got there, the walls were all white,” said Ben. “We’ve worked towards using as much space as possible to display students’ work.”

When Ben was asked about his guidance for his students during the project, he said, “The only restriction I set forth was that it needed to be transformative. It couldn’t just look like a piece of art just put on the space, something that would blend in. It had to fundamentally change the space.”

Riddle Me This

At the April 22 ribbon cutting, UB students spoke who contributed to the Praxis design and installation. From left to right: Chase Conatser (Art), Vasilious Markousis (Art), Kendall Spaulding (English), Vijay Bhat (Art) and Sarah Kost (Theatre and Dance)

In addition to a rainbow of new paint, the space now includes its own puzzle. The hard to decipher words are a riddle, a poem written by Kendall Spaulding, a UB student seeking a degree in English. Five lines of poetry appear from each direction, which allows students to read them differently as they pass through the hallway.

Kendall’s words are coded in the typographic designs created by different UB students. The complexity of trying to decipher the different fonts adds another layer of complexity that Ben’s students wanted to incorporate. The font types are also associated with the color scheme of the space: easier fonts are used on white type with a yellow background, a combination that doesn’t lend itself well to reading. For students that are completely stumped by the riddle, Ben added, “There is a key in the space that can be used to help unlock the message.”

Setting the Stage

Part of the Praxis installation appears in the windows beneath the ceiling.

While the space isn’t complete yet, students returning this fall can expect even more changes. The Theatre department will make their transformations next, and their input revolves around the space being seen as a stage. The wall currently lined with Quick Connect computers will be changed dramatically by Erich Frank and his students during the fall semester.

In the meantime, the Praxis will continue to intrigue and baffle onlookers. “Only a handful of people working on the project know the answer to the riddle,” Ben added, “And none are likely to divulge the answer.”