Raised in a rural town and educated in big cities, Samuel Wagner said he saw a cultural rift forming between the two: Do urbanists think about the everyday lives of country denizens -- and do they care?
Instead of sorting out his thoughts using pen and paper, he is putting light to acrylic sheets, such as Plexiglas.
Wagner and his wife, Christabel, have created "Structural Circumstances E.G. 2," a sculptural lighting installation for the Columbus Arts Festival, which will be held Friday, June 9, through Sunday, June 11, on the Scioto Mile on the banks of the Scioto River in downtown Columbus.
"Structural Circumstances" will be in Bicentennial Park all three days of the festival. The Wagners were chosen from a field of 17 other applicants to create the installation, the first of its kind for the arts festival.
The couple were awarded $25,000 from American Electric Power for their effort and art materials.
The piece is a 24-by-8-foot replica of a mobile home made from multicolored, transparent acrylic panels. Natural illumination will light it up during the day. At night, dozens of LEDs will make it glow from within.
The Wagners said the piece simply is intended to open dialogue.
"We need to take a good look at how segregated we are and where that will take us through time," said Samuel Wagner, who grew up in Vincent, west of Marietta.
"We don't want to make a statement," said Christabel Wagner, who grew up in New Zealand and Hong Kong. "We want to have a conversation."
Samuel Wagner, 31, graduated from the Columbus College of Art & Design. Christabel received her undergraduate degree from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. They met at the Chelsea College of Arts in London, where they both earned their master's degrees.
The artists live in downtown Columbus.
Jami Goldstein, a spokeswoman for the Greater Columbus Arts Council, which produces the festival, said the Wagners took an interesting approach to an object that often has negative connotations.
"Public art, in and of itself, should generate dialogue among people who see it," she said.
The festival itself promises to be one of the premier art shows in the country, with 270 artists representing 17 media, Goldstein said. The number of exhibitors is down about 30 from last year, but it's a deliberate decision, she said.
"We want the artists who attend to have a really good experience, and there is a sweet spot in festivals in having too many artists and too few artists," she said.
The festival, which also includes live music and dance performances, is expected to draw about 450,000 people.
A five-member jury selects the vendors from 1,000 applicants, Goldstein said. This year's artists hail from 37 states and four countries, including the United States.
"There are very experienced artists; most of them have spent a lot of time honing their craft," she said.
Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Artists' booths will close at 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.