After taking his bronze sculpture out of the mold, Clemson art student Kep Pate grinds off the extra pieces of bronze.

After taking his bronze sculpture out of the mold, Kep Pate grinds off the extra pieces of bronze.
Image Credit: Craig Mahaffey/Clemson University

When Kep Pate came to Clemson, he spent more time drawing than studying — a tactic that he doesn’t recommend. “It doesn’t end well for your grades,” Kep laughed. “But it made me realize that I needed a creative outlet.” And that outlet was Clemson’s sculpture program.

Sculpture, defined as any non-ceramic, three-dimensional art form, gives Kep endless possibilities to unleash his creativity. But for Kep, simply being creative isn’t enough — whether he is working with wood or metal, he strives to make his art the best it can be.

“You can’t really beat your friend at art,” he laughed. “But I push myself to capture the details.” This competitive edge comes in part from his involvement with Clemson’s nationally renowned waterskiing team. “Both sculpture and waterskiing are very technical,” he said. “I work just as hard to perfect my skills in the studio as I do on the water.”

In the realm of sculpture, Kep isn’t riding in anyone’s wake. After spending many hours in the art studio, he wanted to share his passion with fellow students. “I noticed that there was a huge separation between students and the art on campus — many didn’t even know what the pieces were.” So he took a step to bridge the gap between the artist and the public by joining Atelier Insite.

Pate busts his bronze sculpture out of the mold he created.

Pate busts his bronze sculpture out of the mold he created.
Image Credit: Craig Mahaffey/Clemson University

Atelier (ar-til-e-ay) is the French word for studio, so it’s fitting that this Creative Inquiry class works to promote a positive feeling for art on campus. The group of Clemson students from across many different disciplines is tasked with the full responsibility of bringing public art to new buildings on campus. From choosing the sculpture’s concept to handpicking a professional artist, engineering, life science, architecture and art majors all work together on a budget. “It’s a time consuming process, but we’re starting to get the flow of things,” Kep said.

The Atelier Insite students put emphasis on site-specific art, which is any public piece that is designed specifically for its location. “We want the new art on campus to relate to the people, to the classrooms, to Clemson as a whole,” he said. “It’s our job to find out what students want to see.”

Public art is particularly important to Kep because it presents challenges that aren’t associated with personal art. “It is difficult to find a balance between aesthetically pleasing and thought provoking subject matter,” he said. Always ready to rise to the challenge, he understands the importance of finding common ground between the artist and the viewer. “This is the art of our generation,” he said.

After graduation, Kep plans to attend seminary, but knows that art will always be a part of him. The ambition and creativity he has developed as an artist will help him make a difference in all of his future endeavors. But for now, he can reflect on the positive impact he has made at Clemson.

“Sculpture has allowed me to leave a mark on campus,” he said. “It’s great to change something that you thought couldn’t get any better.”