No matter how far Kyle Rambatt ventures from his small hometown on the southern border of Wisconsin, he knows he is home when surrounded by art and artists.
“Artists are just so creative and cool. They are the people I’ve always felt most at home with,” said Rambatt, an equipment technician II in Stanislaus State’s Department of Art. “They are always pushing the boundaries of technology and saying, ‘what if we try this crazy thing,’ then creating spaces where no one has been before. That’s exciting to me.”
With a mechanical aptitude and a bachelor’s degree in sculpture from Northern Michigan University (NMU), Rambatt works primarily with tools and equipment in the sculpture studio while also providing instructional and administrative support across the Art Department. He calls his job “a little bit of everything” and says he can be found on any given day working on or helping students with the laser cutter, 3D scanners, metal fabrication and wood working equipment, or a wide assortment of sculpture hand tools.
Rambatt started working at Stan State in October 2019, just a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and the campus pivoted to virtual learning. At the beginning of the pandemic, he worked remotely on safety projects for a couple of weeks, then he returned to campus. He has been working on site ever since to upgrade and rebuild art department equipment, reorganize supplies, track inventory, update safety guidelines and complete other necessary tasks.
“It just made sense to come back to campus and work here,” he said. “We have a lot of physical projects to work on, and we get a lot done when fewer people are around.”
“Artists are just so creative and cool. They are the people I’ve always felt most at home with. They are always pushing the boundaries of technology and saying, ‘what if we try this crazy thing,’ then creating spaces where no one has been before. That’s exciting to me.”
Growing up in the Village of Sharon, Wisconsin (population 1,600), Rambatt learned mechanical and carpentry skills while working on cars and construction projects alongside his father. In high school, where he excelled in art, an art teacher named Mark Hanson changed the trajectory of his life by encouraging him to pursue higher education and an art degree.
After considering several colleges, Rambatt picked NMU with the intention of majoring in ceramics. But, once again, an educator’s encouragement changed his course. This time, during the NMU registration process, a faculty member convinced Rambatt to sign up for a sculpture class.
“I took that sculpture class and just never left,” he said. “I just loved the open-ended nature of sculpture. You can work with any material and there are endless possibilities. I loved the variety: fabricating, blacksmithing, jewelry, scale metals, casting. The variety is what attracted me, and that’s why I stayed with sculpture.”
He graduated from NMU with a bachelor’s degree in 2017 and moved back home while he planned his next steps. For a while he worked as a metalsmith fabricating ornamental gates and other custom architectural iron work. Then, he applied for an internship at the renowned Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado. While he didn’t get the internship initially, he did get a scholarship for a workshop at Anderson Ranch and that led to an internship there the following year.
In the back of his mind, Rambatt always knew he would enjoy working as an instructional or equipment tech, or maybe a shop manager, on a college campus or in another educational setting. So, when he met Stan State Associate Professor of Sculpture Jake Weigel and former Instructional Tech Andrew Cain at Anderson Ranch, and both spoke highly of Stan State, Rambatt put the University on his job-search radar and eventually landed his current position.
Rambatt says he is not sure what his next steps will be. He thinks about someday pursuing a master’s degree or promotions, but for now he prefers to simply enjoy where he is. He is currently helping Weigel set up a digital fabrication space called the Fab Lab in the newly remodeled University Library and designing potential remodels of the sculpture studio. In his free time, he works on personal art projects that focus on repurposing and recycling, including furniture and items he makes from colorful handmade rope.
“I’ve always worked with scrap materials, and I like repurposing and recycling. I think it is our duty to be responsible and use materials we already have as much as we can,” he said. “And it provides a fun design challenge when you have a pile of stuff to work with, and what can you do with it? That’s always a fun problem to solve.”