CoorsTek sculpture transforms aluminum oxide into art

A new art installation – made of 240 specially designed aluminum oxide ceramic tiles manufactured by CoorsTek – now crowns the ceiling of the CoorsTek Center for Applied Science and Engineering.

Artists David Cole and Michael Brown were on campus this summer to unveil the sculpture, Luminous Waveforms, along with the stakeholders involved in bringing the installation to life, including CoorsTek Co-CEOs Michael Coors '06 and Timothy Coors '01 and Chief Technology Officer Randel Mercer.

“Typically, our ceramics are for industrial purposes or scientific purposes, but we think that science is beautiful and that there’s art to be found in all kinds of areas – including ceramics,” Michael Coors said at the unveiling. “We’re proud to showcase that here.”

The Luminous Waveforms project was part of Colorado’s public art statute where an allocation of 1 percent of capital construction funds for new or renovated state buildings are set aside for the acquisition of works of art, the process of which is administered by Colorado Creative Industries.

In 2014, CoorsTek and the Coors family announced a $27 million commitment to fund a new research partnership and construction of a modern research and teaching facility at Mines. The investment was the largest single private commitment in Mines’ 143-year history, expanding upon a longstanding academic, research and career opportunity partnership between CoorsTek and the school. The state of Colorado also provided $14.6 million in funding to make the CoorsTek Center a reality. The research and teaching facility opened for classes in January.

The art installation project began with a call for artists, where interested parties were given a description of the building plus the stipulation that the art piece would include ceramic materials manufactured by CoorsTek. Four finalists were chosen to visit the CoorsTek Center, meet with the project committee and tour two CoorsTek manufacturing facilities to gain a greater understanding of the medium they were required to use.

David Cole and Michael Brown were chosen and began their journey of creating Luminous Waveforms – a hanging sculpture comprising 240 specially designed aluminum oxide ceramic tiles manufactured by CoorsTek.

The material was chosen because its translucency allowed LEDs to illuminate each tile from behind. The mechanical movement of the tiles and the patterns displayed by the LEDs are inspired by the laws of physics and activated by the movement of students below the artwork. The piece is entirely original and almost everything was fabricated from scratch.

“Michael and I are both fascinated by industry and science, and felt particularly engaged by this opportunity,” said David Cole, co-artist of Luminous Waveforms. “It was on a tour of a CoorsTek facility that we found a beautiful cylinder made of very pure alumina. When we shone a light through the material, the whole object glowed, and the seed of our idea was formed.”

The Mines Physics Department calls the CoorsTek building home and Professor Jeff Squier said Luminous Waveforms should resonate with the Mines community. 

“Understanding structure and function over extraordinary spatial and temporal scales is one of the grand multidisciplinary challenges being explored by Mines students and faculty,” Squier said. “Luminous Waveforms really encapsulates this research challenge, with a dynamic sculpture that interacts with its environment and is continuously changing its physical shape and the signal pathways exhibited by the LED lighting.”

To learn more about Luminous Waveforms and how CoorsTek was involved, check out this video, courtesy of CoorsTek:

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

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Colorado School of Mines is a public research university focused on science and engineering, where students and faculty together address the great challenges society faces today - particularly those related to the Earth, energy and the environment.