Meet Student Alyssa Smith


KENNESAW, Ga. (Jun 4, 2019)Student: Alyssa Smith, senior in School of Art and Design
Major: Sculpture with architectural minor; concentration in environmental studies
Work: Assistant Shelter Manager at Georgia House Rabbit Society
Passion: Combining sculpture and architecture to benefit animals

Alyssa Smith with her sculptures

When she was growing up, sculpture student Alyssa Smith thought she might want to be a veterinarian, but instead, she figured out how to turn her love for animals and her passion for sculpture and architecture into career goals. Working closely with School of Art and Design professors Debbie Hutchinson and Keith Smith, the senior designed and constructed bird baths and birdhouses and habitats for bats and squirrels.

“My squirrel habitat wasn’t great; there were lots of learning curves. But the thought is there: it’s outside and standing, but I’m not sure whether or not the squirrels like it,” explains Smith with a laugh. For her next big project—creating a bat habitat—she began with research. “I looked at traditional designs like a nursery house, then I landed on a rocket house design because the bats go up inside to nest,” says Smith. Additional elements she researched included ideal temperature, paint choices, air venting, and even the best spacing between roosts—it’s ¾ inches, ideally.

Alyssa Smith bat habitat sculptures

Her bat habitats are natural, animalistic pieces; she draws from her personal belief that nature is a heavy part of spirituality, that everything has a spirit inside and it doesn’t go away and is always there. “My favorite designs combine human and animal aesthetics. Humans and animals can live together and peacefully co-exist,” she says.

She also designed a manhole cover featuring a skunk wearing a bandana to pitch to the City of Kennesaw through the Master Craftsman Program; she was inspired by her research of the Creek Indians in Kennesaw and the hog-nosed skunk native to the area. “The Master Craftsman program introduces you to art for public works; you submit your design to a board, create schedules, draft contracts, and more. I enjoyed the work because it was less conceptual and more real life,” she says. Completed projects for the City of Kennesaw by the Master Craftsman Program include a sundial, signage, a shade structure, and benches, along with the colorful manhole covers. Although her manhole cover was not ultimately chosen, she valued the experience and pledges to take it further.

“My dream job would be to create my own designs for clients, especially working with aquariums or zoos to create animal habitats. It’s like civil engineering for animals,” says Smith with a grin. “I like making things. Designs become so much better once you create something, because you have confidence that you can do it. I want to do something monumental—something over 6 feet. I am already at that scale [with the bat habitats], so next I want to do something really big,” she adds.

Kathie Beckett; photos by Shane McDonald