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ARTIST PROFILE: Sue Young commissioned to make Plattsburgh mural

November 10, 2017
By STEVE LESTER - Correspondent ( , Lake Placid News

PLATTSBURGH-A new wall mural outside the Plattsburgh Public Library on 19 Oak St. by Jay resident Sue Young should be completed by the spring when all its marbles are working.

Under the theme "The Read and Grow Dream Garden Mural," the marbles bring to mind the rain cycle as they travel to the top via a mechanical device and then trickle down like raindrops.

"I wouldn't consider doing it without a theme," Young said.

Article Photos

Sue Young
(Photo provided — Sue Young)

While most of the mural is complete so that the public may view it, the mechanical device that carries the marbles to the top is still a work in progress. "The marble machine," as she calls it, should work like an auger or corkscrew device similar to the way a post hole digger screws into the ground and lifts out dirt.

The problem is that one-and-a-half-inch diameter marbles don't cooperate as easily as dirt does.

"The hardest part is lifting the marbles," Young said.

About 200 people in all have contributed to the making and design of the mural, many of whom are artisans like Young who work in clay, a group she refers to as "The Clay Art Team," about 24 in all.

"Some of them had no training or experience at this, but they had the right level of enthusiasm," she said.

And then there's the group Young calls "The Marble Machine Society" headed up by Justin Collins, an associate professor of physics at SUNY Plattsburgh.

"Justin is a very bright young guy," she said. "He designed it from top to bottom including the solar powered motor. It took us four days of trial and error, but we finally got it figured out. It wouldn't happen without him."

Even though they may have it figured out, the marble machine is still about one-third complete. Part of the holdup involves constructing the marbles themselves using a three-dimensional printer.

"The marbles are the size of ping pong balls," she said. "We have to figure out how to design the 3-D printer and set it up so it won't take forever to print the things."

Although such a device presents its share of trial-and-error headaches, Young said it's worth the trouble because "this is my seventh mural, so you want to step it up."

In addition to the one Young has at home, she has two other murals on display in Plattsburgh already plus one each at the Peru, Keene and Elizabethtown central school districts.

This latest mural originated with a request from a group that calls itself Outside Art: Plattsburgh Public Art Project. Its Facebook page says, "Outside Art produces and creates public art for Plattsburgh and spreads local awareness of public art projects around the world. Public art includes murals, sculptures, structures, and multimedia installations. We will work with local, regional, and national artists to animate our spaces. We hope Plattsburgh will become a tourist destination for art and a place for artists to settle and create."

Funding has come from a number of sources, including the state of New York, the city of Plattsburgh, the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts, "and a lot of private local support," she said.

A 1981 graduate of SUNY Potsdam, Young lives with Terry, her husband of 34 years and a fellow artist from Queens, New York, in the house her father built on state Route 86 in Jay. It's also their studio where they create nearly all their works.

"It feels good just to be in the studio where you live and work so when you get an idea you can get right down and get right to it," Terry said.

Together they live with Sasquatch, a friendly long-haired black cat who they strongly advise not to pet.

"He likes to lure you in by rubbing up against your ankle, that is until you reach down and try to pet him. Then he tries to take your hand off," Terry said.

They have two daughters who have left the nest, 29-year-old CJ and 26-year-old Emily, who has a son, Zane.

In the past, they've recorded two CDs with their four-piece percussion band Mountain Drum.

While the Youngs may have many diverse interests and artistic projects in the works, Sue looks forward to the spring in the hope that "The Marble Machine Society," with wunderkind Justin Collins, puts the finishing touches on the device that lifts those ping-pong-ball-sized marbles from the 3-D printer up to the top of the mural so they can sprinkle down like raindrops and deem the project finished.



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