Scroll to the bottom to see both of her finished pieces.
“Art is everywhere,” “anything can be art;” almost everyone has heard these phrases said plenty of times from plenty of people in the art community. But one local artist made those phrases a reality this fall when she recycled hundreds of soda cans and crafted them into, not one, but two separate life-sized works of art.
Amy Levine is now in her 20th year as an instructor at Piedmont Community College (PCC). She started teaching part-time at PCC in the Fall of 2001, then was elevated to being a full-time instructor in 2010. She began by teaching Art Appreciation, then ran telecourses, before online courses existed, teaching from her home in Raleigh, where students would mail in their artwork. Levine continued her teaching tenure taking on other courses such as Drawing, Art History, Two-Dimensional Design, Sculpture, as well as advising the College’s Creative Minds Club.
“The truth is, I got into teaching by accident,” Levine said. “After I graduated with my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts, I bounced around a few different jobs as an art assistant and middle school art teacher, but I knew I ultimately wanted to teach art at the college level.”
Levine said she loves teaching because of the students; that she enjoys teaching all of her courses from history to those that are more hands-on. She said she’s able to connect deeply with her students, and, occasionally, some return with exciting news.
“One of my former students, who works at the Kirby Gallery in Roxboro told me she just graduated from Appalachian State with a degree in art history,” Levine said. “And she expressed that she pursued that degree because of my art history class.”
As co-chair of PCC’s Global Distinction Program to bring cultures from around the world to the College and its students. While focusing on art from Africa, specifically from artist El Anatsui, who creates art from discarded liquor bottles, members of PCC’s Creative Minds Club, who took on the responsibility to create a sculpture for the College, were inspired to create a similar piece that promotes recycling.
The club decided they would use soda cans as their medium, but in March 2020, just before they could begin the project, COVID-19 challenged the ability for face-to-face learning.
“PCC’s Student Government Association already funded the project, we began collecting cans as a club, and that last day I thought I might as well bring everything home and see what I could do,” Levine said. “After speaking with the SGA, I decided I would do it instead of the club, and for the next year-and-a-half it became my labor of love.”
Throughout the next 18 months, Levine collected hundreds of cans, half of which were donated from an OSHA office in Raleigh, and created two pieces similar to a patchwork quilt, one on display at the College and the other inside Roxboro’s City limits, in the Kirby Art Park. Except instead of using cloth and thread, these three-dimensional sculptures were sewed with cans cut into squares from various soda brands, wire as thread, a PVC pipe skeleton, and wire-mesh frame. After countless hours, she finally revealed her two finished pieces this fall.
In September, Levine debuted a girl holding an umbrella walking her dog in Uptown Roxboro. Then in October on PCC’s Person County Campus in front of Building S, she unveiled a life-size horse for the College.
“The horse is ultimately a collaboration of two programs within the College,” Levine said. “It’s a symbol that the Creative Minds Club is giving to PCC’s Global Distinction Program”
However, this isn’t the end of this series. Levine has plans to work with the Creative Minds Club to create another horse piece, but for PCC’s Caswell County Campus. And, personally, she has an art show coming to the Kirby Gallery sometime in 2022.
For PCC students wishing to join the Creative Minds Club, the club is always accepting new members who have any kind of interest in art who would like to dabble in new art forms and travel to museums and exhibits. Interested students can contact her for further details by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We welcome anybody,” Levine said. “You don’t have to be great at art, you just have to love it.”