CANstruction Exhibit in Albany

Designers in Albany exhibit whimsical canned-food art to help feed the hungry

When it comes to fighting hunger, just one can of food makes a difference. But assemble an eight-foot tall figure using thousands of cans, and you can make a really big difference.

Based in Atlanta, Canstruction is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending hunger in the U.S. The charity sponsors competitions in cities nationwide, in which giant structures — made entirely from cans of food — are designed, built, and exhibited for all to see.

Albany is the latest city to hold a Canstruction contest, which takes place this month at the New York State Museum. Twelve teams — consisting of volunteer architects, engineers, and contractors from throughout the Capital Region — vie to see who can construct the largest and most creative structure using nothing but canned goods. (Competitors in other cities have built everything from a yellow Volkswagen Beetle to a giant portrait of Elvis Presley.) The exhibit is on view April 13-28.

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“The competition is such a unique way to showcase the design capabilities of architects, engineers, and contractors,” says Kelly Donahue, communications manager for Albany’s EYP Architecture and a Canstruction VP. “It’s a healthy competition in a way that is going to give back to the community.”

The teams begin by developing a design with an accompanying story that explains how their creation relates to fighting hunger. The structures are then configured in Revit — the same computer software used to design buildings — which allows the teams to avoid pitfalls that could result in a collapsed pile of cans. No adhesive is used, but rubber bands and other items that won’t damage the cans or their labels are allowed. The average sculpture contains 2,500 to 3,000 cans. Each team has seven hours to turn its collection of creamed corn, chicken noodle soup, and other foods into a 10-foot wide by eight-foot high fantasy.

Visitors to the museum are encouraged to bring a can of food for donation, which counts as a vote for their favorite figure. Following the exhibit, the works are deconstructed; each of the thousands of cans is then transported to the Food Pantries for the Capital District, a group that provides food and funding to pantries in the community.

“It’s a great education lesson for the entire family,” says Donahue of the exhibit. “It showcases the creativity and talent within the Capital Region. And there’s the added benefit of teaching your children about nutrition, building, design, and construction. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

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