By Bill Landauer

The shield for Alliance—one of the five Commons in Lafayette’s Connected Communities Program—looks like an expensive wooden relief. But when you pick it up, it feels lighter than wood. And then you turn it over and realize it’s not wood at all.

It’s foam. Originally, it was a puzzle-piece style foam fitness mat, the kind people use in their basements for aerobics or weightlifting. To Daniel Goodman ’20, a biology major from Sharon, Mass., the mats are like pottery clay.

For the past five years, Goodman has been making shields, Halloween costumes, and other odds and ends out of the mats. He has it down to a science (he has pie charts that show how much of his time he devotes to sanding or painting), but the work is anything but.

“It’s very good for de-stressing,” Goodman says. “Kind of unplugging from everything.”

The completed shield depicting the Hermoine sailing ship

New students are assigned to one of five Commons, or teams, for housing purposes and orientation, as well as academic and social activities. Goodman is making shields for each as part of the College’s Creative and Performing Arts (CaPA) Scholars Program, which offers financial backing to about 30 student artists a year through an endowment funded by Bruce ’65 and Jackie Maggin P’02. Now instead of plugging away at drawing, painting, cutting, and sanding on card tables in his parents’ basement, Goodman has the yawning studio space in the Williams Visual Arts Building at the base of College Hill.

“It’s an upgrade in every sense,” he says. “More space—a lot more space. More tools—there are certain presses, sanding machines, cutting machines that I’ve wanted to buy, but logistically wouldn’t make sense trying to fit all that in your basement, and there’s a painting studio upstairs that I’m hoping I can paint in for when I finish the fabrication of the piece.”

The Alliance shield cost only about $50 to make. That includes everything—from the foam mats to the retractable knife he uses to carve to the spray and acrylic paint.

“Anybody can do this,” Goodman says. “But you need patience and an eye for detail.”

The College hasn’t yet decided how the shields might be displayed. Marquis Dining Hall or Farinon College Center are possibilities, says Paul McLoughlin, dean of students.

“Daniel is incredibly talented, and his desire to construct these is exciting,” he says. “I also think it will go a long way in helping to solidify the continued branding of the Commons for students.”

“His sensitivity to the culture of the institution, his sensitivity to how the culture can be changed to iconography,” says Nestor Gil, assistant professor of art and CaPA program coordinator. “The fact that he can use his own skill set … as service to the institution. Those aspects are awesome and what’s really great about the project.”

It took about 49 hours to complete the Alliance emblem, Goodman says. Each time he builds something, he gets faster. In February, he was working on the L’Hermione shield. By as soon as next year, Goodman hopes to have crafted shields for all five Commons.

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