Collaborative Artwork Makes a Splash on Campus

Georgia Tech alumnus and senior designer at GTPE engages community through healing power of art

February 20, 2018 | By Gordana Goudie
Bobby Strickland in front of painting

Bobby Strickland with the finished Make a Splash piece, now on display in the lobby of the Counseling Center. Photo by Allison Carter.

Tech alumnus and senior designer at Professional Education, Bobby Strickland, has beautifully demonstrated that even at a technology powerhouse, art has a profound role to play. When confronted with tragedy, a grieving community found relief by creating a painting.

He came up with the idea for the Make a Splash collaborative art project following the death of Scout Schultz, a Tech student and campus leader. Strickland felt a strong need to do something meaningful for the community that has been central to his life for decades. With support from the Division of Student Life and the Office of the Arts, he set up his paint and canvases and invited students and their families to create art on October 28, 2017, during Family Weekend.

Participants were asked to dribble paint drops from squeeze bottles to cover the canvases “Jackson Pollock-style” with a rainbow of colors, each one making a unique splash. The paint thickness built up so quickly that it took three days to dry. Later, Strickland painted over the top of this background with transparent, colored glazes. To unify the piece, he painted overlapping water ripples. The final presentation was multiple canvases that fit together like a puzzle to make one canvas. It is now on display in the lobby of the Counseling Center.

“The Make a Splash collaborative art project provided a way for all of us to create together in the spirit of healing,” he explained. “We are demonstrating that we all fit together, that every individual makes a unique impact, and that impact has a ripple effect. Together, we can send ripples of love and acceptance in the face of tragedy and loss.”

Hundreds of people of all ages created the paintings. Some made random patterns, others drew hearts, peace signs, flowers, Georgia Tech logos, or signed their initials. “Even a person who is blind contributed to the artwork,” Strickland commented. “I made certain to preserve his portion and not let it get painted over.” The paint was so fluid that each design flowed into the next, which led to the abstract look when the work was completed.

Having won the People’s Choice award at the Faculty and Staff Art Exhibit in 2017, Strickland is a familiar face at the Office of the Arts. Its director, Madison Cario, pointed out the potential of the Make a Splash project for uniting people. “This project was an exciting way to bring Georgia Tech families and students together in a creative atmosphere during Family Weekend,” she said. “Just the action of putting paint to paper can promote healing and effective communication. The kind of creative expression that Bobby inspired really brought forth everyone's unique contributions to our community.” 

The piece is complete, but for the mastermind behind it, it’s just the beginning. Strickland has plans for a much larger project in the future. “I am exploring ways to use this first piece to generate enthusiasm for the final piece,” he explained. “It could tour the campus in sections, since each canvas can live on its own as an abstract piece, and then be assembled as a unified work.” Other ideas on the future project include the potential for auctioning off individual canvases as a fundraiser for mental health, diversity, arts, or other initiatives on campus. 

Whether the next stage of this project comes to fruition or not, one thing’s for sure – the simple act of creating art together brought comfort to the Georgia Tech community at a difficult time.