Brooklyn Artist Helps Public School Students and Williamsburg Residents Visualize Pi

Pi is coming to East Williamburg. This is not a new artisanal pastry shop (though it wouldn’t be wholly surprising if one of those sprung up, too), but the mathematical constant. Artist Ellie Balk and an army of public school students from the Green School will create a mural visualizing pi — using color and negative space to show 3.1415926… — on a wall on the corner of Graham Avenue and Boerum Street in Brooklyn, which is currently covered in random tags.

The work is set to be completed by students from grades 9-12 over the course of 8 weeks, following an enormously successful Kickstarter campaign (they’ve already raised almost $12,000 on a $4,300 goal). This is just the latest of several math-related public art projects Balk has done with students at the school. Previous works include a “histogram of emotions” and a weather mural helping students visualize climate change.

According to the Kickstarter page:

The design involves replacing the infinite digits of Pi with color-coded blocks and viewing the irrational number as a shape. For the first time, students will see the negative space of Pi and search for patterns. To focus students on the concept of infinity, we chose to use the Fibonacci or Golden Spiral, representing another irrational number, Phi, as the framework for the visualization. As the space in the spiral gets smaller, the bars of the number shorten. When you first look at the image, you might see a shell pattern or a cityscape. Only upon investigation, will you know that it is a representation of Pi.

Of course, the ultimate visualization of pi is… a circle. But why go simple when you could go irrational? This is, after all, pi.

Shane Ferro

(Images: Courtesy Ellie Balk)