Public Art Citizen Advisory Committee selects Nicole Ausley to design portable art gallery
Nicole Ausley, a 2010 graduate of the Architectural Technology program at Dakota County Technical College, won a design competition for a project managed by the Public Art Citizen Advisory Committee of Dakota County. The students in Nicole’s class were asked by the committee to design a portable gallery for artwork created by the artists and craftspersons of the county. As part of an official college project, each second-year student created an individual design for the proposed gallery.
“The students came up with the idea to have a competition to find the best design,” said Beverly Claybrook, an instructor in the program. “They then selected the top four designs and a number of committee members came out to the college for a formal presentation.”
Jim Overocker, the chair of the Public Art Citizen Advisory Committee, reported that the committee has a charter to bring public art to the residents of Dakota County. One novel way to accomplish that mission is to field a portable art gallery that could travel to libraries, schools, churches, city halls, fairs and other public venues.
“We needed someone to do the design work for the portable gallery,” Overocker said. “We also wanted to collaborate with a county entity. After we found out that Dakota County Technical College had an Architectural Technology program, I contacted Beverly Claybrook, who then took the idea to her students.”
Overocker and his fellow committee members were impressed by Ausley’s design for a number of reasons. They liked that her design was the most practical and solved the various problems presented by a large portable structure.
“Nicole’s design was more in touch with the basic needs of the project,” he said. “One requirement we have is that our maintenance people should be able to easily move and assemble the gallery. She covered that aspect and also realized that a portable gallery needed to display as much art as possible. On top of that, she made sure the gallery could be locked and secured on location.”
The portable gallery will feature both 2D artwork such as paintings, illustrations, drawings, sketches, and photography, and 3D artwork such as vases, pottery, sculpture, and other objects. Overocker noted that Ausley is fine-tuning details and making suggestions on cabinetry while aiming at cost reduction. The Dakota County Historical Society has applied for a grant to launch the project, which will move ahead once funding becomes available.
Ausley, who graduated with distinction from DCTC this spring, came to the Architectural Technology program with an Associate in Arts degree from Inver Hills Community College. Twenty-three and a 2005 graduate of Apple Valley High School, she developed a natural love of architecture from an early age.
“In the fifth grade, I won a best architecture award for building a bridge out of toothpicks,” she said. “I also took hand drawing and AutoCAD in high school.”
After IHCC, she chose the Architectural Technology program at DCTC as the best way to follow her career dreams and quickly discovered that the curriculum was both challenging and rewarding. Another instructor in the program, Charles West, zeroed in on skill development with hand drawing as the main focus.
“Charles was a tough teacher,” Ausley said, “but he made sure you made it if you showed you wanted to be there. The classes are small and the instructors always have time to help you one on one. The instructors are also demanding. Our hand drawings had to be perfect before they were accepted—and that’s part of the learning process. You do something over and over until you get it perfect.”
As it happens, Ausley is a perfectionist so she fit right into the program. She didn’t submit her hand drawings until she knew they would be accepted the first time out. That perfectionism and attention to detail not only served her well on the portable art gallery project, but also gave her the discipline to master the fundamentals of her career path.
“Hand drawing techniques teach you about line-weight and how drawings really work,” she said. “After that we moved onto AutoCAD. Working on the computer makes the job a lot easier, but you need hand drawing to really know what you’re doing.”
Her career goals are centered on finding her place in an architectural firm as part of a team working directly for an architect. Because she loves working in AutoCAD and SketchUp, she sees herself getting into the nitty-gritty of architecture with some overall design responsibilities and opportunities. “I’m into the technical stuff,” she said, “so I like developing plans on the computer. My advice to anyone thinking about architectural technology is to know that it’s something you really want to do and be committed.”
Nicole Ausley Interview