Explore Buoyant Force, a new sculpture by artist Sue Wrbican, with your family from home. Scroll down for activities and share your creations with @restonarts #ExploreMoreHomeEdition.


The Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE) is pleased to present Buoyant Force, a 50-foot steel sculpture by artist Sue Wrbican. The sculpture is inspired by the work of another American artist named Kay Sage (b. 1898, New York; d. 1963, Connecticut). Sage created Surrealist paintings of tall structures that resemble scaffolding with rolled up pieces of fabric. Often the structures appear in dark and empty spaces. You will notice some of these elements in Wrbican’s sculpture, for example in the curled steel which appears to be attached by giant clothespins. The Buoyant Force sculpture is based off a maquette (a small model) Wrbican made and which was displayed in an exhibition at GRACE in 2017.

Wrbican is an Associate Professor and Director of Photography at the School of Art at George Mason University. She holds an MFA in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BA in English Writing with a concentration in poetry from the University of Pittsburgh.

Explore More is a self-guided program for kids and families normally taking place in our gallery. The Home Edition is designed for families to enjoy virtually!


Recommended age group: Pre-k – Early elementary school

Buoyant Force, the title of Sue Wrbican’s sculpture, is made of recycled materials such as reclaimed steel pipes. Instead of becoming discarded garbage, these pipes were used to create a work of art that can be enjoyed by all.

You can also make a piece of art while helping the environment. Would you like to try? Wonderful! Follow the steps below to use recycled materials and found objects to make your own upcycled insect!

You will need: scissors, pencil, tape or glue, a toilet paper or paper towel tube, old newspapers or magazines, drawing materials (markers, crayons, etc.), pipe cleaners or twigs from outside (ask your parents if you can go outside to look for these), and yarn or string (optional).

  1. Take your paper towel or toilet paper tube. This will be the body of your bug. Decorate the body any way you wish—stripes and spots are great choices, or you might choose to wrap colorful yarn or string around the tube for a textured effect.
  2. Now it’s time to construct your bug’s wings. Find some old newspaper or magazines (make sure to ask permission from an adult to use). Use a pencil to draw a circle about 4-5 inches across. Cut out your circle. Draw a line down the center of the circle and cut along the line. You now have two wings (trim to adjust to the shape you would like)! Color your wings if you wish and attach them to your bug’s body with glue or tape. Alternatively, you can find two leaves for your wings.
  3. Make your bugs legs by attaching pipe cleaners or by finding small twigs outside. Your bug can have as many legs as you like! You can also use these materials to attach antennae to your bug’s head.
  4. The final step is making your bug’s face. You can cut out two circles from newspaper, and then fill in a smaller circle in black. You can also use recycled water bottle caps or buttons.

Recommended age group: Upper elementary school


A large sculpture is typically created with the help of a team who collaborates to create a finished product. As discussed, Sue Wrbican is the artist who envisioned and designed the Buoyant Force sculpture. From here, she worked with a team including a curator, metal fabricators, painters, and engineers, among others. Engineers are experts in various materials and help to make sure structures are installed correctly.

You can experiment in engineering by using lots of materials, including simple paper. To make your own paper sculpture, just follow the steps below. 

You will need: several sheets of paper (construction paper, computer paper, and cardstock all work great), a pencil, scissors, and glue/tape/stapler

1. Take a sheet of paper and experiment with 3-D techniques. A few suggestions are:

  • Tab: Cut a strip of paper to the size you like. Fold back the end and crease. Place a small amount of tape or glue under the “tab” and attach to your paper or a larger structure.
  • Roll or loop: Cut a strip of paper and attach the two ends together with tape/glue/stapler. You can also wind the strip of paper around your finger, hold in place, and then unravel to create a curl or loop.
  • Accordion pleats: Cut a strip of paper and fold over 1 inch. Flip the strip of paper over and fold back. Continue this pattern until the end of the paper.
  • Fringe: Cut a strip of paper. Hold the paper so that it is horizontal and cut small slits into the paper which are close together

2. Combine different techniques to build up a paper sculpture of your own. Pay attention to how the paper balances—you may have to use certain techniques to help some areas stand up.

3. Add color by using different colored paper or by coloring the strips of paper before you begin folding and gluing them into place.

ACTIVITY 3: Public Art Sketchbook
Recommended age group: Middle school – High school

The Buoyant Force sculpture is considered public art. Public art is located in a public space for everyone to enjoy. Oftentimes, public art is located where many people gather, such as a park. There are many things to think about when creating a public art sculpture, such as materials, the environment in which it placed, the colors and shape it will be, and the name. Additionally, signs installed around the structure can help to better explain it to the public.

With just a few simple materials, you can make a Public Art Sketchbook to visualize your own creations.

You will need: several sheets of paper (computer or construction paper), a stapler, a pencil, and colored pencils/markers (optional).

  1. To begin, make your sketchbook by folding 4-5 sheets of paper in half together. Make sure your paper is laid out horizontally in front of you when you fold into a notebook size.
  2. Staple along the fold of papers three times.
  3. Flip your sketchbook open to the first page (after the cover) and begin brainstorming your public art piece. You can make doodles or write down ideas. A few things to think about are:
  • The name of the sculpture
  • The materials it is made of
  • The size
  • The environment (i.e. urban city, park, desert, metro station)
  • The shape and color
  • The overall concept (What is the purpose of the sculpture? What does it stand for?)
  1. Flip the page and begin sketching your sculpture. Try to add details like trees, people, cars, and buildings to show the scale of the artwork in comparison. You can also add color with colored pencils or markers.

Photocredit: Sue Wrbican