Dietrich Wegner Awarded TEDxErie Artist Commission

Match stick, bridge-inspired design featured on stage for TEDxErie Event

Local art professor and exhibiting artist Dietrich Wegner will lead the stage installation for TEDxErie: Bridges Over Barriers on November 4 at McDowell High School.

Wegner responded to an open call for applicants in July, which called for the submission of design concepts reflective of this year’s Bridges Over Barriers theme.

“We approached Erie Arts & Culture last year to help develop the criteria for the artist commission application and coordinate submission and review processes,” says Jonathan D’Silva, Organizer and Lead Curator of TEDxErie. “We’re excited to continue to work with them this year and we look forward with anticipation to see how Mr. Wegner’s design will translate onto the TEDxErie stage.”

Erie Arts & Culture provided dollar for dollar match funding to TEDxErie’s $1,500 stipend bringing the total award amount to $3,000.

“As a funder of arts and cultural activities and organizations in Northwestern PA, the commission gives us the opportunity to support a local artist in the creation of new artwork for our community,” says Melinda Meyer, Grants and Education Program Director for Erie Arts & Culture.”

Wegner’s concept for the stage design was rooted in an earlier art project featuring model train houses precariously perched atop a ten-foot-tall lattice work of delicate, match stick stilts. He expanded the idea on a recent trip to California, where he learned that redwood trees have intermingled roots. When one tree is in short supply of nutrients, a tree with an excess supply, sometimes miles away, can feed its vulnerable neighbor through this root network.

“The original project showcased houses atop separate stilts, heightening their peril and symbolizing the tenuous state of the American dream and our choice of seclusion for security,” says Wegner. “For the TEDxErie stage, I reshaped the work to retain an element of upheaval, but will visually stabilize this by making the houses perfectly level, with interwoven foundations, symbolizing a sense of community. Erie’s stabilizing force is its community—our bridge over the barrier of a shifting economy and rising income inequality. We succeed when we recognize ourselves as interlocked with our community.”

As a part of the TEDxErie artist commission, Wegner will host a TEDxErieSalon event on October 25 at Calamari’s Squid Row to introduce his work to the community in addition to addressing the audience at the TEDxErie event.

TEDxErie also worked with Erie Arts & Culture to coordinate the submission and review of performance artists to cultivate small breaks throughout the November 4th event’s line-up of speakers. Selected are Cee Williams, former Poet Laureate of Erie County; musicians Nick Warren and Jess Royer, the dynamo behind the band Cult Classics; and guitarist and beat-boxer Leeanna Golembiewski.

In 2016, Heather T. Cole was the Artist Commission recipient. A local artist and full-time lecturer of digital arts at Penn State Behrend, her augmented reality painting is on display inside the upper floor of Behrend’s Kochel Center, where students pass it every day on their way to the library.

About TEDxErie
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. Our event is called TEDxErie, where x = independently organized TED event. At our TEDxErie event, TEDTalks video and live speakers will combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events, including ours, are self-organized.

About TED
TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment, and design converged, and today covers almost all topics from science to business to global issues in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

About Erie Arts & Culture
The mission of Erie Arts & Culture is to strengthen the vibrancy and vitality of the Erie Region and enrich the lives of our people through the advancement of arts and culture. Additional information about Erie Arts & Culture is available online at

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