Asia Ward is a Minnesota based artist who creates public art projects about the environment, water systems, and electric power production. Since 2006, Asia has been working for the Science Museum of Minnesota and in 2012 started working for the KidWind Project developing products, writing curriculum, and training teachers about renewable energy education. Asia has participated in several Artist Residencies around the US and has received grants from the Minnesota State Arts board, the Jerome Foundation, Northern Lights, Public Art Saint Paul, and the Knight Foundation, and was recently selected to be one of the featured artists in the book: The Art of Tinkering by Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich from the Exploratorium.
At night, in the open country or the mountains, when there is a clear sky and a full moon, the landscape becomes flattened, and all details are reduced to simple and distinct layers of neutral colors. My work explores the surreal dimensional shifts of landscape through time and light, and is shaped by my memories and dreams, and by the dark spaces between the layers of medium and representation. My sculptures are models of imagined places made real, referencing the topography of river valleys, moon craters, and underwater environments. I use light and shadow upon layers of metal and plastic in order to distort perspective and depth, and embed movement in select pieces to give my landscapes subtle qualities of life.
I am interested in how environmental models, such as train sets or architectural dioramas – regardless of scale or simplicity – provide a place to pretend, a virtual world which one can temporarily exist. As with these models, I aim to create an immersive environment that parallels natural phenomena without literally interpreting it as such. I devise experiences that mentally and sometimes physically transport participants to new lands of imagination, thus opening within them a non-objective dialogue with their own experience of the “real” world.
I want to give my sculptures a spirit. The best way for me to channel that spirit is by using symbolic artifacts of a child’s life, which are mostly toys and clothes. I prefer using old, abused, and well-loved toy animals because they already contain the essence of a spirit, put there when the child wanted the toy to be alive. The used toys have a certain character, such as smells, dirt, stains, and bald spots. When I take the skins of multiple toys and sew them together to make one sculpture, I concentrate on the feelings I detect from the human residue, and determine if the sculpture will be playful or sad looking.
A good example of this is to be found in the sculpture entitled Wolf. The fabric of Wolf came from the damaged remains of stuffed animals found in a child’s bedroom of a burned out house. The child perished in the fire. The stuffed animals were all found facing the bed of the child, and were witnesses to the death. The fronts and faces of the stuffed animals were burnt, but the backs were untouched except for a strong odor of smoke. I used the smoky backs of the animals and a pair of scorched eyes to build Wolf. Then I embedded an AM radio into Wolf so as to offer the deceased child a means of communication. The eerie and sad shape of Wolf was based on the impression I had of the tragedy and what I envisioned the clumps of fabric to look like.
Through my sculptures, I want adolescents and adults to feel a connection with the childhood spirit of the toy-like creatures, and to remember what it was like to be a child pretending and playing. Reflecting on my sculptures, adults may recall their own childhood adventures, fantasies, sad memories, or feelings of being lost and abandoned. When that reflection occurs in the viewer, I feel that an element of childhood innocence has been regained in the adult. I believe that my sculptures are most successful when they transform old stuffed animals and dormant memories into an experience that is relevant to the viewer.
PROFESSIONAL RESUME: I work between the realms of science, art, and education. I’ve focused my career and my personal life on connecting these areas, gaining the insight necessary to research education methods, develop elemental tools, and make creative learning and problem solving more accessible to young learners. My professional experience and strengths are in program development, professional development, coordination, informal education instruction, and materials research and development. My work is focused on integrating art with science, technology, engineering and math.
AAA&E: Minneapolis, MN.
- Co-founder, The Plume Project: A Series of public art lighting experiments on Saint Paul’s downtown steam plume, led by a coalition of independent artists in partnership with the District Energy heating and cooling plant.
RECHARGE LABS: Minneapolis, MN.
- Co-founder and Director. Train formal and informal educators all over the US about renewable energy concepts using hands-on projects for classroom implementation. Write curriculum and develop STEM project-based renewable energy kits K-12. Director of Outreach.
KIDWIND PROJECT: St. Paul, MN.
- Project Manager and Director of Outreach. Train formal and informal educators all over the US about renewable energy concepts and hands-on projects for classroom implementation. Develop STEM project-based renewable energy kits K-12.
SCIENCE MUSEUM OF MINNESOTA: St. Paul, MN.
- Program Specialist, Learning Technology Center. I do professional development workshops for museum staff and volunteers of Tinkering and Maker spaces.
- Program Specialist, Exhibit Developer, Resident Artist, Engineering Studio Project. Worked with a team of engineers, artists, volunteers, and prototypers, in order to develop activities, tools, and exhibits about the engineering aspects of Wind Power, Fluid Power, and Motion.
- Adult Learning Program Developer, Social Science. Developed temporary interactive exhibits or activities for Social Science, a tri-monthly 21+ event, and contributed three temporary exhibits/activities per event. The activities were about exploring technology and science through art making.
- Program Specialist, Playdates. Developed educational tools, learning objects, and activities for a weekly program for toddlers and under. Worked with the Volunteer and Floor Managers and trained volunteers.
- Program Developer, Resident Artist, Making After Hours. Started and managed a monthly adult workshop series led by artists. Worked with local artists, businesses, libraries, schools, and universities.
- Teen Tech Squad Education Coordinator, Hennepin County Libraries. Coordinated monthly workshops and trainings that integrated art, music, and technology, for the Teen Tech Squads of North Regional, Bloomington, and Central libraries.
- Artist in Residence, Playful Invention and Exploration (PIE) Institute, supported by the MIT Media Lab and the National Science Foundation. My role was to collaborate with museum leaders from around the United States to demonstrate my artistic work and facilitate a new hands-on approach that integrated art, technology, science, music and engineering.
WALKER ART CENTER, Minneapolis, MN.
- Toymaker Artist, Remake/Revamp workshop. Target Free Thursday Nights. Instructed a family friendly walk-up workshop about making a misfit toy, and installing basic circuitry to make it glow.
- Artist in Residence, Robo Plushy workshop. Community Programs. Instructed a teen class about basic circuitry and hand crafting unique kinetic creatures.
KULTURE KLUB COLLABORATIVE, Minneapolis, MN.
- Artist in Residence, Project Offstreets, Youth Link. Spent after school time with homeless and at risk youth encouraging them to create robotic like creatures, with used toys and home electronics. Residency included field trips to other artists’ studios, theater shows, and dance, and culminated in an exhibit of youth work.
2000 B.F.A., Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO.
SOLO EXHIBITIONS: Selected, within the last five years
2015 Ames School of Art, Den, Merwin Gallery, Bloomington, IL.
2014 Phipps Center for the Arts, Gallery One, Hudson, WI
2010 Rosalux Gallery, Scene from Above, N.E. Minneapolis, MN.
RECENT GROUP EXHIBITIONS: Selected, within the last five years
2016 Franconia Sculpture Park, Solar Tree, Shafer, MN.
2015, 2016 District Energy steam plume, Plume Project, St. Paul, MN.
2013, 2014 Public Functionary, Bright Lights 2013, Antarctica 2014, Minneapolis, MN.
2013, 2015 Artists in Storefronts, Made Here, Perspective 2013, Bloom 2014, Minneapolis, MN.
2012, 2014 Northern Spark, Body Pong 2012, Electric Hopscotch 2014, Minneapolis, MN.
2011 Fulton Street Collective, Exquisite Corpse, Chicago, IL.
2011 Burnsville Performing Arts Center, XXL, Burnsville, MN.
2011, 2012 Rosalux Gallery, Platinum Black 2011, Silverfish 2012, N.E. Minneapolis, MN.
2010 Lexington Art League, Creatures Great and Small, Lexington, KY.
AWARDS AND GRANTS:
2015 Franconia Sculpture Park/Jerome Fellowship, Shafer, MN.
2014 Knight Arts Foundation, Knight Arts Challenge, Plume Project,District Energy, St. Paul, MN.
2012, 2014 Public Art St. Paul, City Art Collaboratory Artist Grant, St. Paul, MN.
2008, 2012 Minnesota State Arts Board, Artist Initiative Grant, St. Paul, MN.
2012 Northern Lights, Artists on the Verge, Minneapolis, MN.
2011, 2014 Northern Lights, Northern Spark Grant, St. Paul, MN
2008 Blacklock Nature Sanctuary Jerome Fellowship, Moose Lake, MN.
2005 Public Art St. Paul, Installation grant Flying Horse, Western Sculpture Park, St. Paul, MN.
2003 Franconia Sculpture Park/Jerome Fellowship, Shafer, MN.
9/01/15 – 6/01/16 Franconia Sculpture Park, Shafer, MN.
9/01/11 – 10/1/11 The Anderson Center, Red Wing, MN.
7/01/08 – 8/01/08 The Blacklock Nature Sanctuary, Moose Lake, MN.
3/01/07 – 4/01/07 The Weir Farm Art Center, Wilton, CT.
5/01/07 – 6/15/07 Kimmel-Harding-Nelson Center for the Arts, Nebraska City, NE.
9/01/05 – 9/20/05 The Hall Farm Center for Arts and Education, Townshend, VT.
8/01/05 – 8/31/05 The Neuwirth Institute for the Arts at Wormfarm, Baraboo, WI.
6/01/04 – 6/30/04 Vermont Carving Studio and Sculpture Center, West Rutland, VT.
8/01/03 – 6/01/04 Franconia Sculpture Park, Shafer, MN.