GMU Student burns pagoda for senior art project

A pagoda was set on fire on the George Mason Univ. pond as part of an art project.

FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA9) -- A George Mason University student is setting fire to a 20-foot handcrafted pagoda as part of a school-approved art series on Friday evening.

The pagoda is called "The Temple of Transformance" and is a canvas for the people's stories of remembrance loss and healing," the school said in a statement.

The installation is part of GMU senior Michael Verdon's "transformative art" series. The premise of his series is creating spaces for reflection and change and then burning them, the school said. Verdon calls his work "healing structures," according to school officials.

Building the structures takes hundreds of hours of volunteer work, according to Verndon. He manages the construction of the projects.

Verndon is 33 and is a visual technology major with a concentration in sculpture and minors in social justice, conflict analysis and conflict-resolution. Verndon spent nine years in the Air Force and worked as a computer programmer for the military and civilian companies before attending George Mason, officials said.

"It wasn't until he got to Mason in 2010, and specifically, the Art and Design Building on the Fairfax Campus, that he realized programming computers was not his passion-art was," the school said.

Taking a class on conflict analysis helped Verdon realize he could combine art with social change, GMU said.

"I started getting heavier into the conflict analysis program and these ideas of mediation and peace building, things that can actually impact peoples' lives," Verdon said in a statement.

Verndon worked with environmental heallth and safety officials on campus to make sure proper precautions were taken to burn the "Temple of Transformance."

David Farris, GMU's director of safety and emergency management said the pagoda is "good to go... up in flames," the school wrote.

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