Bamboo weaves a spell in Mint installation

A bamboo tunnel will be unveiled today at the Mint Museum Randolph, a one-of-a-kind sculpture where visitors can immerse themselves in nature.

"Passages: Green Wall" winds about 80 feet across the museum's front lawn. Volunteers, led by internationally known bamboo artist Tetsunori Kawana, put it together over the last three steamy weeks using straight and split Madake bamboo.

Kawana embraces the Shinto philosophy that energy exists in all things, and the work intends to leave visitors with a sense of well-being and connection with nature.

"People and nature interacting - that's the most important thing," said Kawana, 64. "If people feel that, I have fulfilled my mission."

Kawana said the bamboo, garden green when it arrived and tanning now in the elements, will change color throughout the year, giving the installation an ever-changing hue.

"When the visitor goes through, it is an experience," said Annie Carlano, director of the Mint's museum of craft and design. "It's got a life force in it."

Anchored in 2-foot steel rebar footings, 20-foot poles create the walls of the installation and cut bamboo stalks assembled at angles fill in the sides. About two dozen volunteers have helped shape the creation, including UNC Charlotte architecture students and members of the Japanese Association in Charlotte.

It was commissioned as part of the Mint's Ten-Ten-Ten program. To celebrate the museum's new uptown home, which opened in 2010, the Mint commissioned 10 high-profile international craft artists to create 10 innovative works.

Artists are encouraged to take risks with the commissions, Carlano said, and "Passages" is a stretch. It is one of Kawana's largest projects to date and his first in the United States outside of New York City.

It will stand for a year, then the bamboo will be recycled into the earth.