Reused materials light the way for teens

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By Bennett Horne

A request by his wife to get rid of an old propane tank years ago sparked an idea in the mind of San Francisco artist Colin Selig.


And now residents of Los Alamos can enjoy the fruits of that idea, the finished product being an art display in front of the Los Alamos Teen Center.

The display, consisting of brightly colored lumispheres, a symmetric loveseat and asymmetric bench, was dedicated at a May 10 ribbon-cutting ceremony. 

“Colin takes propane tanks, cuts them apart, cuts out pieces and welds them back together,” said Jeremy Smith, chairman of Los Alamos’ Arts in Public Places board. “Typically what he does are the benches. He’s got a number of these throughout the United States in public spaces.”

Smith said this display is unique to Los Alamos.

“We told him we wanted to be able to integrate some lighting and to have something spherical with holes in it,” he said.

Each of the three spherical pieces has LED lighting inside it, with the lights programmed to come on when the sun goes down and then rotate through a variety of colors.

“If you haven’t seen these at night you should come by and take a look at them,” said Smith. “They are pretty impressive the way the lights change colors and shine through the holes in the lumispheres.”

Selig, in a letter read by Smith, said he knows what a special place Los Alamos is after spending time here during an earlier trip.

“I visited years ago on a family vacation and vividly recall the beauty and splendor of the natural environment,” he wrote. “It is a privilege to have my artwork in your community.”

After thanking those who helped make it possible for his work to be put on display at the Teen Center, Selig wrote, “None of this would have happened if it weren’t for Dick McEntire who got excited when he saw my work at a landscape architecture show and knew he wanted to have some for Los Alamos.”

Selig’s wife actually played a key role in the project as well when she asked her husband to remove an old propane tank the couple had out in the yard.

“The final person I have to thank is my wife, Janet, for inspiring me to cut up the first propane tank back in 2010,” wrote Selig. “For a long time we had an old rusty tank on our property and eventually, in desperation, she urged me to get rid of it or do something with it.”

The lumispheres, which were the first ones he made, are based on a collection of smaller shelf top sculptures he made for Neiman-Marcus.

Selig noted that the purpose of his work is to “inspire others to consider new possibilities for reusing materials.”

And he wrote, “As a sculptor I’ve chosen to focus on public spaces because I want to create more sustainable and playfully-built environments.”

He added, “It is an honor to have my artwork in your city and I hope it is enjoyed for generations to come.”

Los Alamos County Council Chair David Izraelevitz told those gathered at the ceremony that the exhibit says something about Los Alamos.

“I can’t tell you how many people I’ve invited to come look at our downtown who are just amazed with the value that we place on art in our community,” he said. “It really says something about our community that we are proud of our community, that we enjoy living here. It reflects our quality of life.”

He said it is “perfect for our Teen Center” because it reflects “the optimism and creativity of the teens in our community.”

One of those teens, Damien Tsiagkouris, 17, agreed with the importance of having the display at the Teen Center.

“These structures and these benches actually mean a lot to me because I can see these lumispheres and I think of communities, of a swirling world with thousands of people inside them working on one goal,” he said. “I think it’s really important that we have this representation in our community, especially in a place where youth spend so much time.”

Tsiagikouris, an artist himself, was born “in the hospital right up the road” from the Teen Center and has lived in Los Alamos all her life. He said he’s been a part of the Teen Center community since his first visit as a high school freshman.

“It’s always been a pillar of support in my life,” he said. “I can’t say how much the employees here have made a difference in my daily life, and how they’ve been able to give me advice on things from taxes to relationships to how to deal with annoying parents and homework.”

And now there is something in front of the building that can provide equal inspiration.

“The teens here are our next generation,” said Tsiagikouris. “They are going to lead us into whatever we face. And I think the fact that we have an art representation here is a way for them to remember how much power they hold and how much influence they have.”