When admirers see Summer Zeringue’s art project, they just grin and share it

Baton Rouge’s newest piece of public art doesn’t demand a lot of in-depth thinking.

Prism, a sculpture of brightly colored vinyl woven together in the handrails leading up the Mississippi River levee, brings a pop of orange, blue and yellow to the landscape.

Admirers aren’t scratching their heads or pondering its meaning with furrowed brows. They’re mostly just smiling, taking photos and sharing them on Twitter or Facebook.

“It’s really something to turn people’s heads and get their attention and say, ‘Wow, that is art,’” said Summer Zeringue, the 23-year-old LSU student who created the work of art.

Located at the intersection of Skip Bertman Drive and River Road, Prism’s transparent vinyl sheets leave a unique shadow on the concrete steps. In the late afternoons, when the sun hits it just right, it creates a rainbow of color on the ground like a stained glass window.

“I picked these bright colors so you can see it coming around the corner … just to get people to notice this area,” said Zeringue, a senior sculpture and ceramics major from Norco.

With Prism, Zeringue is encouraging viewers to interact with the artwork. At the base of the stairs, a sign encourages the public to take photos with Prism and publish them on social media sites — Instagram, Twitter and Facebook — labeled with the hashtag #PrismBR.

The hashtag allows the photos and comments connected to the artwork to be organized. Zeringue searches them regularly to document the public’s interaction with her work.

“Oooh adding a touch of artsy color to the river front,” one Instagram photographer wrote.

Another Instagram user took a photo of her hands and feet covered in the blue and yellow shadows produced by Prism. She captioned the shot with “Blingin.”

“I think it’s being able to see your art through their eyes and to see what they think about it,” Zeringue said. “That’s one of my favorite things as an artist is to see the reaction from the public or to see that first smile when they walk up.”

She developed the hashtag concept last semester when she created another public sculpture in downtown Baton Rouge called Spectrum. It used bright vinyl sheets attached to plastic pipe, which allowed viewers to walk beneath it. Of course, photos of the sculpture showed up on social media websites.

By encouraging people to put photos online and use a consistent hashtag, social media has become an important part of her project. Zeringue even printed out color copies of each Instagram post to turn in to her professor.

“I think artists in the future are going to have to consider social media because it’s the big thing now that everybody does,” she said.

After graduating this week, Zeringue plans to teach art classes and continue creating sculptures. Even after two public projects dealing with colored vinyl sheeting, she is still interested in the shadows they create.

“I’ve always been obsessed with shadows,” she said. “Shadows is something I’ll always consider in a piece.”