U.S. Artist Recasts COVID-19 Acrylic Panels as Art

Courtesy of the Mixed Bathing World Executive Committee / Photo by Guerin Blask
Tom Fruin is seen with his artwork.

BEPPU, Oita — Celebrated contemporary American sculptor Tom Fruin is set to debut a new work Sept. 22 at Kitahama Park in Beppu, Oita Prefecture.

Fruin’s latest creation reuses and reimagines acrylic panels that played a major role as part of countermeasures against COVID-19.

The work, which is set to be a permanent feature of the park, will be illuminated at night.

Fruin is known for recycling scavenged steel and plastic, among other materials, to create three-dimensional works that often resemble stained glass.

The new artwork is a 7-meter-high, 3-meter-wide piece, fashioned from acrylic panels and signs previously used by companies and schools in the local area.

The new piece in Fruin’s acclaimed “Watertower” series will be internally illuminated by LEDs from sunset to 11 p.m., allowing visitors to enjoy the creation in the evening, too.

The unveiling of Fruin’s work was announced Aug. 18 by the Mixed Bathing World Executive Committee, an entity that organizes art events.

“We hope [the new work] will serve as a symbol that ‘protects’ the city,” said committee representative Junya Yamaide.

In a Japanese-language message sent to the people of Beppu, Fruin said: “Water is special to Beppu … This work will be installed as a testament to the solidarity between mankind and nature … In the sunlight, the sculpture will sparkle like a kaleidoscope and shine internally at night like a vibrant lighthouse.”

The committee plans to install a total of eight sculptures in the city, including Fruin’s. One work has been installed on a hotel rooftop and another on a building near JR Beppu Station.