Art Institute of Vancouver students make Super Mario out of 3,000 cans of food

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How many cans of food do you need to make one sculpture of the old-school video-game character Super Mario? The answer is just under 3,000, apparently.

The Art Institute of Vancouver’s sustainable leadership class for graphic design students partnered with the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association to collect as many cans as possible for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society. The students collected the cans, and then spent Saturday morning erecting the sculpture. The aim of the event was to collect donations, raise the profile of the food bank, and draw attention to the Mount Pleasant BIA.

“We wanted to do something interesting that would kind of draw attention and market the campaign,” student Beren Davis told the Georgia Straight at the sculpture’s unveiling. “We wanted an event that was also going to bring attention to the MPBIA and the area, and to kind of let people know that we’re involved in our community and we want to try to raise money in positive ways.”

Another participant, graphic design student Skye Marker, added: “In the summer months, the food bank’s donations go way down because over Christmas or the holiday season everybody is thinking more about giving, and then in the summer everyone is still really hungry.”

Nobody seems to remember how the Art Institute and the BIA first paired up, but this is the third project that they have worked on together. For the students, there was a steep learning curve.

“None of the students really had experience with [canned food drives], so we learned a lot over this period,” Marker said. “Our goal initially for the cans was 3,000. We didn’t really know what number to give, and we’ve actually done really well.”

The group did everything they could think of to come up with canned donations. Over the course of three months, they nagged their friends and family incessantly, they held barbecues where they raffled off student artwork, and they even held a jelly bean count.

Then, once the donations were starting to come in, they had to decide what they were going to build with the cans. They had a group brainstorm voted on the results, and early Mario won.

“Pixel art is really interesting-looking, we thought it was something that we could pull off,” Davis said. “Also, Mario’s a pretty universal character that everyone kind of knows who he is and stuff, and those are the reasons we kind of went with it.”

“The actual shapes of the materials, like when you look at a bunch of cans in a row like that on a statue, it really lends itself to pixelated art, because we were wrapping each can in a different colour,” added Marker.

It took them a couple of weeks to get all the materials together and design the sculpture, and they unveiled the finished product on June 6. The public was invited to view the statue from 3 to 6 p.m., and afterwards it was taken apart and sent to the food bank.

The Mount Pleasant BIA was pleased with the results, and this was emphasized by Charmaine Carpenter, manager of marketing and programs for the BIA. “Everybody did a really good job and the students were really helpful, and everyone was super positive about it, which is really what we’re looking for.”

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