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Ben Trautman collaborating with Artship Foundation

Award: $35,000 Visual Arts Grant awarded in 2000

Opened:  December 8, 2001

Sculptor Ben Trautman collaborated with the Artship Foundation and a universal design committee to create a series of mechanical sculptures addressing wheelchair accessibility on a 500-foot-long steel ship that was being converted into a floating cultural and education center by Artship.  The project culminated with an opening on the ship, introducing the public to six sculptures, which included a bright red “mechanical crab” beneath a transparent ramp; an elegant “water crane” mounted on the side of the ship and series of clamping mechanisms that traced the accessible route through the ship.

Artship Foundation’s Universal Design Committee, collaborating with Trautman, included engineer and inventor Ralf Hotchkiss, widely known for his work creating wheelchair and accessibility devices for people in Third World and non-industrialized countries; as well as Barry Atwood, Principal of Accessible Environments; and Deborah Kaplan, Executive Director of The World Institute on Disability.

Ben Trautman has a Masters of Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley, and a BA in Social Theory with a minor in Sculpture from Harvard University.  While developing his work in sculpture, he worked as a consulting artist with several design and architecture firms in the Bay Area and has done many private commissions in steel and mechanical work.

The Artship Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to creating programs in an environment where creativity, personal growth, and vocational skills can be nurtured, observed, and celebrated, and where the meaning and experience of community can be realized through art.  In August 1999, the organization began restoring an historical navel vessel, the former T/S Golden Bear, as a cultural center, where this project took place.