Clemson Engages Students in Public Art Initiative

THIS SPRING, CLEMSON UNVEILED THE UNUSUAL FINAL PRODUCT of a Creative Inquiry class: “The Clemson Genus Project,” a public art installation by internationally recognized artist Klari Reis spanning the three atriums of the life sciences building.

The CI class, called Atelier InSite, was the brainchild of art professor David Detrich and his colleagues Joey Manson and Denise Woodward-Detrich. While most public art programs have an experienced board of directors selecting artwork, these professors envisioned a different model, one that engaged and educated students. The word “atelier” is derived from the French word meaning “workshop” or “studio.” Atelier describes the atmosphere and attitude toward the installation and development of public art on campus.


“Atelier InSite is uniquely Clemson because we’re engaging students as the primary generator of this project,” said Detrich, adviser to the Atelier InSite students. “You see a lot of top-20 schools with similar programs, but those are not student driven. We want to establish a precedent for student engagement in similar programs.”

Faculty recruited art and life sciences students for the course, where they researched the nature of public art, investigated the design-build process, conducted a site analysis and identified site locations for artwork. When they put out a request for proposals, they received more than 200 applications from artists. They chose Reis because of her attention to detail and ability to fulfill the goals of the project.

The artist allowed the public to name each of the 600 individual paintings, so students, faculty, staff and friends were able to suggest titles. A legend is on display so visitors can see the names given to each one. The paintings were done in petri dishes and depict microscopic images similar to those studied in scientific research.

The public art initiative is the mandate of the design guidelines for current and future campus projects that stipulate, “All capital development projects that are anticipated to exceed two million dollars will consider the benefits of public art and will apply ½ of 1 percent of the construction budget for such work.” As a result, plans are underway to identify other artists for existing and new projects in the following buildings: Lee III, the Watt Family Innovation Center, ONE, the WestZone and the renovated Littlejohn Coliseum. In the process, the Atelier InSite program, along with the Department of Art and the Center for Visual Arts, will be collaborating with all five colleges as well as athletics.

Additional information about the art installation can be viewed at And find more information here about public art at Clemson.

Bringing Electricity to the Globe’s Darkened Corners

Rajendra Singh said that his work has accelerated since the White House named him one of 10 “Champions of Change” for solar deployment this spring.

Rajendra Singh said that his work has accelerated since the White House named him one of 10 “Champions of Change” for solar deployment this spring.

CLEMSON’S EFFORT TO BRING ELECTRICITY to the globe’s darkened corners has gathered momentum since the White House honored a professor for his four decades of work with solar energy.

Rajendra Singh said that his work has accelerated since the White House named him one of 10 “Champions of Change” for solar deployment this spring. Groups that support green technology and other aspects of his research have been approaching him in the wake of last month’s award, he said. Singh is the D. Houser Banks Professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Center for Silicon Nanoelectronics.

“Can we do something that I never thought would happen in my lifetime? Well, now it’s close to reality,” said Singh.

Singh said the technology is available to bring electricity to the entire world in as little as five years while lowering utility bills in the United States. It’s a matter of integrating electrical components, finding a business model that works and moving public policy in the right direction, he said.

According to Singh, about 1.5 billion people have no access to electricity and another 1 billion have access only to unreliable electricity networks. And providing basic education, health care and life skills are all dependent on electricity.

Singh’s focus is on solar power because fuel from the sun is free. At the same time, hardware prices for solar power are falling faster than for wind power. Solar panel costs fell by 62 percent from 2011 to 2013, while wind turbine costs dropped 12 percent, Singh said.

Part of the challenge in bringing electricity to some areas is figuring out how to deliver it to rural towns and villages that are disconnected from main grids. For Singh, the solution is to create microgrids and nanogrids that get their power from solar panels and distribute it like mini-utilities. Microgrids cover a small area, such as a single town, while nanogrids are small microgrids that distribute power to an even more limited area, such as a village of a few dozen homes. Batteries are used to store the electricity.

Singh is an advocate of using direct current (DC) in microgrids and nanogrids, a concept he said is similar to what Thomas Edison had in mind when he invented DC transmission. Solar panels generate DC electricity. The sprawling grids that deliver electricity to most homes and businesses around the world carry alternating current (AC), Singh said. While the cost of generating local DC power has fallen, AC power generated by centralized facilities has remained the same, Singh said.

“Wind- and solar-generated power is cheaper than power produced by coal-fired plants when factoring the social costs of carbon,” he said. Using direct current also solves an electricity-conversion problem. LED lights and an increasing number of consumer devices, such as televisions, run on DC electricity, Singh said. So do battery-based hybrid and electric cars.

When AC electricity flows into homes and businesses, it has to be converted to direct current to power DC devices. More than a third of the energy can be lost in conversion, Singh said.

“Globally, as the AC electricity infrastructure retires, all new electricity infrastructure should be built on DC,” Singh said. “Loads that require AC must be equipped to convert AC into DC. The dominant use of DC in place of AC will be a major improvement in increasing our energy efficiency.”

If Singh’s ideas sound futuristic, it wouldn’t be the first time he was a step ahead of the pack. Work he did in “rapid thermal processing” in the 1970s and 1980s helped lay the foundation for solar-cell and semiconductor manufacturing. He is now leveraging his experience to overcome the technical and business challenges that come with bringing electricity to the parts of the world that remain in the dark.

Clemson Research Minute featuring Professor Singh: