Public Art

Mel Chin’s Wake 

On View in Asheville through September 7

Photo: Adam Taylor, UNC Asheville

Wake, Mel Chin’s giant animatronic sculpture, installed in New York City’s Times Square last summer, will be on view in Asheville, from March 15 to September 7, at 44 Collier Avenue. Chin, a WNC based conceptual artist, was named a MacArthur Fellow in September 2019.

Wake was commissioned as part of Mel Chin: All Over the Place, a multi-site survey of his works from across many decades that took place in several New York City locations. A collaborative group, led by UNC Asheville’s STEAM Studio and The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, formed to plan and raise funds for the sculpture to be seen locally.

Wake – 60 feet long, 34 feet wide and 24 feet high, conceived and designed by the artist – was engineered, sculpted and fabricated by an interdisciplinary team of UNC Asheville students, faculty, staff and community artists led by Chin. The sculpture is interactive and features decks and places to sit and contemplate.

Wake evokes the hull of a shipwreck crossed with the skeletal remains of a marine mammal. The structure is linked with a carved, 21-foot-tall animatronic sculpture, accurately derived from a figurehead of the opera star Jenny Lind that was once mounted on the 19th century clipper ship, USS Nightingale. Jenny Lind moves subtly as she breathes and scans the sky.

Visitors can experience Wake daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at 44 Collier Avenue.


Wake was made possible by:

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Asheville Downtown Association Foundation
Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority
City of Asheville Public Art Fund
The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina
Susan and Bubba Crutchfield
Rick and Bridget Eckerd
Hedy Fischer and Randy Shull
McKibbon Hospitality
Pete and Cindy Perez
Public Interest Projects, Inc.
Micah Pulleyn and Rob Pulleyn
UNC Asheville STEAM Studio


In-kind support was provided by:

Burial Beer Company
City of Asheville Community & Economic Development Office
Ellington Realty Group
Explore Asheville
Kloesel Engineering
Pie.zaa Pizza
UNC Asheville Facilities Management


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What is Public Art?

“Simply put public art is art in public spaces. Today, public art can take a wide range of forms, sizes, and scales—and can be temporary or permanent. It often interprets the history of the place, its people, and perhaps addresses a social or environmental issue. Public art can include murals, sculpture, memorials, integrated architectural or landscape architectural work, community art, digital new media, and even performances and festivals!” Americans for the Arts 



“Creative Placemaking is generally understood as the use of arts and culture by diverse partners to strategically shape the physical and social character of a place in order to spur economic development, promote enduring social change and improve the physical environment.” Americans for the Arts