Sail project charts new course


heather hertel and ben shaevitz

​(From left) Heather Hertel, associate professor of art, and Ben Shaevitz, professor of physics and pre-engineering, are expanding on Hertel's painting research with a project involving sailcloth.

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Two Slippery Rock University faculty, an art and a physics professor, have united their passion for sailing and charted a new course for combining their disciplines.

Heather Hertel, associate professor of art, has departed on a venture to begin working on the non-traditional sailcloth as the support for large-scale paintings.

Hertel and Ben Shaevitz, professor of physics and pre-engineer, have applied for a student-faculty research grant to include art and physics students in this experimental process involving sailcloth painting and design.

"I see this as fine art combining communities and cultures - art, sailing and science," Hertel said.

Shaevitz donated six sails for the project. Hertel said her father donated one. Two Erie-based sailors provided three. Hertel tacked one of the sails to the wall in the former ceramics studio area on campus and hopes to begin painting in early 2016.

"Paintings on sails for racing boats are usually black with solid colors, very graphic in style," Hertel said. "My painting will be very loose and translucent."

Hertel said her ideas include painting human figures on the sails. She said she wanted to use a hot wax process by but was advised that the beeswax would crack. She switched to acrylic paint.

Hertel said the sails would be exhibited in September 2016 in the Erie Bayfront Maritime Center.

She said students involved in the project would learn about design, fabrics, construction, experimentation and exhibition.

"In order to teach in different ways, because there are different learning styles, it helps to bring in science as another way to think about the same problem," Hertel said.

Hertel said she applied for multiple grants, one through Erie Arts and Culture with the Bayfront Maritime Center, and also one through SRU.

Sheavitz said the pair has collaborated in the past, with him teaching about the properties of light to help Hertel's art students improve their drawings and paintings that require shadows.

"It provided them formal content knowledge, and it did it in a teaching, experiential way," he said.

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