Jonathan Pineno (Friedman Art Gallery director) and Megan Mac Gregor (librarian) standing in front of the Nesbitt Library's 3D printer; two of the small green widgets are sitting on top.

Creativity + 3D printer = solution for art gallery

Canvases in the Friedman Art Gallery kept falling off the gallery’s hanging rods. Was there a simple and inexpensive solution?

On a quiet Monday afternoon Jonathan Pineno, director of the Friedman Art Gallery, and Megan Mac Gregor, engagement and outreach librarian in the Nesbitt Library, went to open the Friedman Art Gallery. When they walked in, Pineno was disappointed to discover that once again almost all of the canvases in the art display had fallen off the gallery’s hanging rods. Using Velcro had been the most recent in a series of unsuccessful attempts to secure the canvases to the existing hanging system.

By lunch, Megan had already devised a possible solution.

The Nesbitt Library has 3D printers which can, by spraying hundreds of thin layers of plastic, create actual physical objects from a computerized design. These printers are available for everyone on the campus to use. “We encourage students, faculty, and staff to experiment with the 3D printers and try to create something,” says Megan. “We want them to see the printers as just another tool that they can draw upon to solve problems, and the best way to do that is for them to get comfortable playing around with them.”

Megan introduced her art-hanging idea to John Owens, infor­ma­tion resources support specialist at the library. John mocked up her concept in Tinkercad, an easy-to-use, free design tool for creating 3D-printed objects. “John has extensive experience using Tinkercad and designing objects with very specific dimensions,” said Megan.

Using measurements from the canvas frames and hangers in the art gallery, John designed and created several prototypes, ultimately turning Megan’s idea into reality: a 3D-printed attach­ment that clips onto the old gallery hangers and supports the student canvases properly.

Using the final Tinkercad design, John printed a batch of the “widgets” on a MakerBot 3D printer. “Jonathan was not scheduled to be on campus the next day, so we left two of them in the Friedman Gallery to surprise him,” said Megan.

When Jonathan next visited the gallery, he was amazed and thrilled to see the simple, yet effective, hanging solution conceived and created by the library staff. The durable hanger attachments will provide years of functionality for the variety of canvas frames that need to be displayed in the Friedman Art Gallery. And with John Owens’ Tinkercad design file saved for future reference, the 3D-printed attachments can easily be reproduced whenever more are needed.

The Friedman Art Gallery

The Friedman Art Gallery features five or six annual exhibits of student, faculty, staff, and community artworks. The gallery is located on the lower level of the Penn State Wilkes-Barre Nesbitt Academic Commons and is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:00 am–4:00 pm. For further information about the exhibits, contact Jonathan Pineno at 570-675-9159 or FriedmanArtGallery@psu.edu.