Visual arts teacher Charlie Pullen peeks out from behind a student creation.
This fall marks the beginning of an exciting new era at UTS. For the first time in the school’s 108-year history, students and staff will be based at a location other than 371 Bloor Street West, the storied building that will undergo a 21st-century transformation over the next three years.
Transporting an entire school to a new location is a massive undertaking. It also comes with mixed emotions, among them a wistfulness at leaving a beloved building behind (even if it’s only temporary). But UTS students and staff have, in typical fashion, taken a creative approach to making our 30 Humbert Street location feel like home.
“The S5 (Grade 11) art class usually does some kind of art installation,” explains visual arts teacher Charlie Pullen. “This year, we chatted as a class and decided that it made sense to design artworks for 30 Humbert.
“We were thinking a lot about the need to quickly turn this blank building into a place that has the character we’re used to, and as senior students, they felt like they were in a great position to do this.”
Charlie gave students the option to work with a variety of materials and use 3-D printing, laser cutting or screen printing to bring their work to life. The challenge, however, was that while Charlie had done screen printing in the past, the school had little experience with 3-D printing, and laser cutting, according to Charlie, was “completely new territory.”
With financial support from the UTS Parents Association, Charlie sought a partnership that could fill gaps in in-house capabilities and engaged Hot Pop Factory, a Toronto company that specializes in laser cutting, laser engraving and 3-D printing. In doing so, he re-established a relationship that was first struck up about five years ago, when the company assisted with UTS 3-D printing projects.
“I was very upfront in saying I’d never done this before, but they were very encouraging and helpful from the outset,” says Charlie of Hot Pop. “They were also genuinely excited by the project and asking about the content of the students’ work.”
Ian Richards, production manager at Hot Pop, says Hot Pop was pleased to be able to offer students the unique perspective of a professional, external vendor.
“Students benefited from seeing their abstract and intangible ideas manufactured in non-traditional art materials, while working with a third-party manufacturer, which is the reality of a lot of contemporary art,” he says. “They got to see how their initial ideas evolved when the rubber hits the road, so to speak.
This is a crucial distinction between theoretical learning and hands-on experience in the real world.
Adds Biying Miao, co-founder of Hot Pop: “We believe young people with entrepreneurial ambition and imagination can really thrive when empowered with this kind of technology and approach.”
Miao notes that the company itself also gained valuable insight from the project. “Knowing that these projects would be the first time these students would see their work become physical and real brings us great insight into the journey of a designer's or artist's process.
“This kind of understanding allows us to better educate those new to the process, and ultimately helps us do a great job in facilitating successful projects.”
In addition to the cutting-edge work facilitated by Hot Pop, M3 students contributed colourful paper sculpture and photography pieces for the school’s middle stairwell, while 2017-18 school captains Aaron and Darla co-designed a striking mural for the front entrance. Thanks to their creativity and an innovative partnership, students have already made an artistic mark on 30 Humbert Street. And the temporary location of UTS feels just a bit more like home.