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Building construction students build walls to showcase the arts

Building construction students build walls to showcase the arts

NORFOLK, Neb. – Building construction students at Northeast Community College have been getting cultured in addition to learning about the proper technics of installing drywall, cabinetry, or siding over the past few years. In 2021, students constructed a two-level set for a Norfolk Community Theatre/Northeast Community College theatrical production. This past academic year, first-year students in the program participated in a project that has allowed the Norfolk Arts Center to expand its display space.

The project was conceived after other students constructed a frame for what was labeled the “world’s largest puzzle.” The puzzle, put together by a member of the Norfolk Veterans Home, was on display at the Arts Center before moving to the Weller Building at the College.

“After seeing (the puzzle display) in here, we got to thinking and spoke with Curtis Brandt (building construction instructor) about our vision of having temporary walls put in so we could use it for pop up display space,” said Sherry Ruden, executive director at the Arts Center. “He said he could build it in with his construction class, in addition to already scheduled projects he had in place.”

Brandt and Ryan Hobza, another building construction instructor, visited the Arts Center to come up with a game plan. Materials were ordered and once they arrived, the 16 students in Brandt’s first eight-week class got to work assembling the system. The wall, constructed on the Northeast campus and then transported to the Arts Center, was installed over two afternoon class labs in time to host an exhibit by Rodney Bode. 

“We constructed a temporary wall system in the boardroom they currently have,” Brandt said. “It has been designed as a temporary system, so they can put it up when they want to do a larger art show and then take it back down in sections and put it into storage when they’re over. That will allow them to still have their wide-open boardroom.”  

The system includes three separate walls. The first on the north wall is approximately 26’ long and 8’ in height while two sections on the south wall run approximately 12x8’ and covers some counter space. The students created a 2x4” frame system built in four sections and covered it in 4x8’ particle board.

“It's supposed to be durable for continual use but soft enough that they could put pins into it,” Brandt said.

“We were really lucky that we were able to have the Bode show here,” Ruden said. “And by having this additional temporary space, we were able to bring in a lot more of his work. We still could have had the show, but we wouldn’t have been able to display as many pieces without the additional wall space.” 

The Arts Center schedule is already built out through 2024 for its main gallery and atrium, however, if other shows with shorter schedules would come up, they now have the space in the board/meeting room to accommodate them.  

Ruden described working with Brandt and the students as a smooth process. 

“Curtis knew what he needed. He came in and measured and then basically sent us the list. We’re happy with what the students built.”

Building Construction students who worked on the project included Devon Bader, Norfolk; Kody Bitter, Tekamah; Logan Bokemper, Wakefield; Shon Brockhaus, Columbus; Lisa Buller, York; Eric Gentry, Hyannis; Jonathan Gonzalez, Schuyler; Logan Kaup, Arlington; Simon Kelly, Bellwood; Cristopher Olivarez, South Sioux City; Cashdon Rasmussen, Bennington; Ryan Schmit, Osmond; Evan Schmitt, Laurel; Matthew Wright, Tilden; and Kellan Wusk, Geneva

Northeast’s Building Construction program gives students a basic knowledge of carpentry and related fields. As freshmen, students design and frame a single-family home as a class project. When they become a sophomore, they continue finishing work on the house. Students also gain experience working on Habitat for Humanity homes, building custom cabinetry, and working on projects off-campus within the Norfolk area. 

Brandt said the Arts Center wall system was a good project for his students.

“It gave them a real-life scenario on something that's already constructed into place there and you can't just tear into it right away. It got them to think outside the box since it is a temporary wall system, they also needed to figure out how to put it in place to support artwork so it's easy to remove later on,” he said. “Having them get in there and try to figure out the details there was very unique and a good process for them.”