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Installation of artwork 'Gut Flora' in Metro station delayed

Artist Shasti O'Leary Soudant will rework the top of her sculpture for the Allen Medical Campus Metro Station after a false start on its installation this week.

The sculpture, known as "Gut Flora," will greet passengers as they arrive and depart the station at the base of the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Some of its pieces will be sent back to the creator's North Buffalo studio for adjustment.

"What will work in theory and what works in the field are two different things," Soudant said Wednesday after being up the previous night with six others for the planned installation.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority had planned to close the station for four nights this week to allow for the installation. The station will be open its regular hours until further notice.

Workers began to install the enameled steel structure that resembles a double helix of DNA at 9 p.m. Tuesday and worked through 5 a.m. Wednesday, only to discover the sculpture was not flush with ceiling tiles of the station.

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Soudant said the attachment of the art to the ceiling became the issue.

"I'm hoping to be able to get a perfect solution within the week. It's just a matter of adjusting the pieces, and we want to make sure we have exactly what we need before we even schedule it again," Soudant said. "We don't have unlimited tries at this. It tries people's patience."

Soudant created six strands designed to look "vaguely biological," in her words. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery commissioned her work for the subway stop. The colorful piece costs about $50,000, is 15 feet tall and about 25 feet wide and made of powder-coated steel sections of different colors.

Despite the temporary setback, Soudant had a positive outlook. "I am still thrilled that I get to do this and am so fortunate to be able to do this at all," she said. "You can't expect there not to be glitches."

Some pieces of the public art are "staged" at the station in a protected manner, while the other pieces that need modifying are back at her studio.

"The greatest difficulty is the fact that we have to do overnight installation. We were up all night and working with an absolutely amazing team," Soudant said, noting she worked with a group of installers from Clark Rigging and Albright-Knox.

There is no new projected installation date, said Aaron Ott, curator of public art at the Albright-Knox. "We are only able to install after hours, and have to schedule seven people to work overnight," he said. "I'd like to see it in two weeks. It might not. It'll also be when the NFTA can close the station. It's difficult to lock it down."

Ott described the work ahead as "a sequenced install" but one that's worth getting right. "We had hoped it would fit," he said. "This is a permanent piece. We want it to be something that lasts and has some impact."

Reporter Karen Robinson covers the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Follow her on twitter at @krobinsonBN or reach her by email at krobinson@buffnews.com.

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