South Lakes STEAM Team’s Arboris Installation is Up on Lake Thoreau Spillway 

Public Art Reston Art & Culture

South Lakes High School’s STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) Team’s 2024 sculptural installation has grown its branches and is on display at the Lake Thoreau spillway. On Tuesday, June 18, a group of STEAM Team members, art teacher and mentor Marco Rando, and Reston Association (RA) crew members worked together to successfully install the sculpture Arboris on the water. Marco Rando shares, “It was a beautiful day for install, STEAM always loves working with RA crew. They are always professional and like to create a plan of operation for an effective and safe install. We started on Monday, loading the trucks for an early morning start Tuesday.” 

In 2010, James Pan, a Lake Thoreau resident, approached Reston Association (RA) with the idea of involving SLHS students in transforming the unattractive, concrete spillway platform into a work of art. With this initial financial funding, RA partnered with Public Art Reston to support SLHS art teacher Marco Rando with their first sculpture in 2012. 

This year marks the 10th artwork created over the past 12 years by the student-run STEAM Team program. Each year, STEAM Team students collaborate with the engineering and art departments to produce sculptures. Throughout the school year, STEAM Team members gain invaluable real-world experience in all aspects of designing, developing, and fabricating a piece of art through a professional public art process. Mentor Marco Rando who runs the after-school art program shares, “I am honored to still be doing this and every year is an incredible challenge to get it done before the school year ends. This year, this sculpture has been the most difficult engineering challenge to date. In years past there has been concepts of a tree, but it always proved to be too challenging, but this year, these students figured it out.” 

The Team was determined to highlight the importance of the environment and the impact being made, so they decided to create a tree as a visual representation. The artwork description is as follows: “This sculpture stands as a symbol of hope and renewal amidst our planet’s pressing deforestation crisis. 

Wood is a renewable resource and sustainable forestry is essential for propagating the earth’s woodlands. Crafted from the remnants of previous sculptures, this design embodies the resilience and continuity of nature’s cycle. Components of recycled lumber are repurposed and given a second life, urging us to forge a sustainable future. The installation will not be just a testament to what we’ve lost but a beacon of what we can reclaim and restore through conscious efforts and sustainable living. It is a call to action, reminding our community of the importance of preserving our forests. In fact, this concept is so efficient in design, has less than 9% cut off waste. A dream of the future are plans to repurpose the materials for this sculpture and others to fabricate a one of a kind greenhouse—a learning environment to inspire multiple course curriculum.” 

The students participated in various fundraising activities, including selling calendars created by Lake Thoreau resident, Mary Prochnow. They also received support from donors. They took part in events such as the Homecoming Parade, HarvestFest, and Jingle on the Lake. Additionally, the Team has given presentations to the community, which have garnered substantial support. A generous donation was also made by the Lake Thoreau Entertainment Association 

The design selection process is complex and involves multiple layers. At the start of the year, students gathered to discuss their diverse ideas, then formed groups to develop several small-scale models to explore their concepts. Following presentations and feedback from the Public Art Committee of Public Art Reston and other design professionals, they deliberated on their preferred designs and ultimately voted on the winning model, which was named One Two Tree

Throughout the process, the Team often had to redesign and rethink sculptures. This was especially true for One Two Tree due to its initial lack of structural integrity, which presented a significant challenge. As a result, they underwent several revisions and remodels. They ultimately decided to create a trunk in the middle, which, like a tree, was more stable, with outward branches and roots. 

Each model presented unique advantages and challenges, contributing to the evolution of the design. Various facets of the design needed to balance structural integrity with economic feasibility and ease of installation on the spillway. The Team received ongoing professional design support from Edward Climo, President of Studio 3 Architecture and Mimi Herbert, internationally renown painter and sculptor. The students’ design concepts were then presented to the Public Art Reston Art Committee and subsequently the RA Design Review Board for final approval. 

Following durability testing, the final design was constructed by students at the high school. “The students first assembly of Arboris in the SLHS parking lot affords a thorough understanding on how to solve the puzzle they designed and formulated,” says Rando. The structure is then disassembled and professionally reinstalled on the spillway by RA staff. 

The installation also features nighttime illumination. “The trees evening lights will change the trees natural wood finish to a multitude of colors throughout the duration of its display,” says Marco Rando. This tree is a symbol of the environment, hope for renewal, and that the Team wants to see a better impact that they make as students. 

Arboris will be up on the Lake Thoreau spillway for the better part of a year and is scheduled to come down during spring break, April 14 – 18, 2025. 

Celebrating its 12th anniversary, the SLHS STEAM Team Program has been creating temporary public art installations for the Lake Thoreau spillway (a utilitarian drainage platform) in Reston since 2012. Guided by STEAM Team advisor and SLHS Art Teacher, Marco Rando, and proudly supported by Public Art Reston and Reston Association, STEAM Team students gain real-world experience following the same process required for a professional artist to realize a public artwork in Reston. Students use all the elements of “STEAM” to realize its sculptures. The Team is supported by Public Art Reston and Reston Association. 

In addition to Public Art Reston, Reston Association and South Lakes High School, this public artwork is sponsored by the Lake Thoreau Entertainment Association, Mary and David Prochnow, and supporters of the STEAM Team calendar fundraiser. 


Photos courtesy of the SLHS STEAM Team

About Public Art Reston

Public Art Reston was founded in 2007 by Reston civic and community organizations and leaders. A 501©(3) non-profit, Public Art Reston documents existing public art, commissions new public artworks and supports the creation of works by other community stakeholders. Over the past 14 years, its work has been guided by a Public Art Master Plan for Reston, adopted in 2008. For more information about Public Art Reston’s projects and programs, visit www.publicartreston.org 

About Reston Association

Reston Association, as manager of Reston’s common lands and many of its recreational facilities, is an important steward of the community’s long-term vision and resources. The Association’s membership includes more than 21,000 residential property owners and renters. The Association’s specific goals and core functions include: leading the community in representing Reston’s interests; engaging in partnerships and fostering community identity; ensuring maintenance, preservation and revitalization of all properties and infrastructure; providing well-maintained parks and other open spaces; and achieving a balance of quality services, facilities and programs. For more information, visit reston.org