Dazzling ‘Depth of Field’ Artwork to Give Life to New Academic Building

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

A dazzling one-of-its-kind interactive “Depth of Field” artistic exhibit, the centerpiece of the new academic building’s central atrium, will showcase engineering ingenuity, scientific wonder and artistic beauty.

Rose-Hulman’s new academic building has been designed to support active student engagement through flexible and easily adaptable spaces for student projects, design studios, and breakout spaces for students and teams to collaborate on projects.

That collaboration and engagement will be on full display to visitors to the building, thanks to a dazzling one-of-its-kind interactive artwork that will showcase engineering ingenuity, scientific wonder and artistic beauty.

Standing at 30 feet tall and 17 feet wide, the “Depth of Field” artistic exhibit will be the centerpiece of the central atrium inside the $29 million, 70,000-square-foot building that will be open for use during the upcoming 2021-22 academic year. The new academic building will also have design studios, flexible classrooms, state-of-the-art chemistry laboratories, collaboration workspaces, and faculty innovation spaces.

After installation this spring, Rose-Hulman students will be able to program features of the artistic arrangements that include more than 13,000 programable light-emitting diodes speckled throughout the artwork’s 360 custom-made components. Those will showcase a multitude of colors every minute throughout each day, reflecting the ever-changing conditions within the building environment. Each morning, as the sun rises, warm-colored tones are introduced and expanded throughout the day. As the sun sets, the colors change to cooler shades – to be repeated the next day, but with slightly different color palates.

“This public artwork will reflect the rhythm of life and the heartbeat of the students within the building,” said artist Adam Buente, who specially designed the artwork with business partner Kyle Perry of Indianapolis’ Project One Studio. “It will be different every second of every day. Each image will never be repeated.”

Terre Haute businessman Tom Dinkel, who is a Rose-Hulman alumnus and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees, and his wife, Susie, have provided a charitable gift to cover the cost of creating and installing the artwork.

“Like the artwork itself, this project has taken on a life of its own, thanks to the vision, imagination and creativity of the artists, our faculty, staff and students, and the support of Tom and Susie Dinkel,” said Rose-Hulman President Robert A. Coons. “Designed to take maximum advantage of natural light, we wanted the atrium to be a showpiece that provides a ‘window into Rose,’ shining light on all of the innovation that will be taking place in this exciting new campus building.”

This is the first academic-centric building being added to Rose-Hulman in nearly 25 years and is the first building on campus to meet new WELL-certified building standards for design interventions, operational protocols, and policies with a commitment to fostering a culture of health and wellness for all of its inhabitants.

The Dinkels met as undergraduate college students in Terre Haute – Tom is a 1972 Rose-Hulman mechanical engineering graduate and Susie is an Indiana State University nursing graduate. They remained in the community to raise their family and Tom ultimately became president and chief executive officer of Sycamore Engineering and its associated enterprises. Tom has supported Rose-Hulman as a longtime member of the institute’s Board of Trustees, currently serving as its treasurer, and mentor for the campus’ Alpha Tau Omega fraternity chapter.

“We saw supporting the art project as a different way of supporting a place (Rose-Hulman) that means so much to both of us and the Terre Haute community. We wanted something that affects the lives of all Rose-Hulman students,” Tom Dinkel said.

The couple appreciates that the Depth of Field exhibit melds aspects of art and engineering, with each of its panels being specially fabricated to fit together like a giant puzzle, controllable through a central computer system, and held onto the wall by strong magnets.

“This artwork had a ‘wow’ factor that intrigued us,” said Susie Dinkel. “Hopefully, students will enjoy the opportunity to work directly with the piece as it brightens their day.”

The artwork’s creation and installation included involvement of students who worked with Project One Studio to propose project flow charts for manufacturing and assembly of the piece that would minimize the potential for operator error. The artist answered students’ technical and process-oriented questions about design evolution of the exhibit, project management, and some of the technical challenges associated with prototyping and testing a large-scale piece.

Kay C Dee, associate dean of learning and technology and professor of biology and biomedical engineering, added that students will be able to incorporate designs for the artwork through future courses in science, engineering, mathematics, humanities, and the arts. “Like the artwork itself, this project has boundless possibilities,” she said.