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'Arty' doesn't bite, but he's no Terror-dactyl, either

Artosaur, the larger than life robotic dinosaur, about to devour a (styrofoam) sheep. Christine Martell wanted a dinosaur in her life ever since 1983, when she lived in central Texas on property that had fossils. Nearly 30 years later, Martell, the vice chairwoman of the Hillsboro Arts & Culture Council, hatched a brilliant idea.

“With the advent of the Hillsboro Arts Month, I thought the time had come to have one — what better to roam around Hillsboro to promote the arts?” she asked.

Clever girl.

Martell has a dinosaur exhibit downstairs this month at the Glenn & Viola Walters Cultural Arts Center. It doesn’t feature terrifying velociraptors that can open doors, irresponsible scientists who make crazy cloning decisions over the course of a four-movie blockbuster franchise — or even Jeff Goldblum.

But Martell has the next best thing: a larger-than-life robotic dinosaur that serves as an advocate for the arts. Step aside, Indominus Rex, and enter Artosaur. Wherever he is, people can bet cool things are about to happen.

“Arty finds the art,” said Martell. “He advocates for creative expression in all forms, he gets out where people are gathering and he makes art touchable and interactive.”

Welcome, in other words, to Jurassic Art.

The project began in May, and Martell received some help from a dedicated team specializing in engineering and robotics.

“I asked my husband Mark for help. I’m like the overlord of art and he’s the overlord of engineering,” she said. “We’ve never done an art project together, so it’s satisfying when our skill sets come together to create something.”

Some additional help came in the form of four students from Glencoe High School’s Shockwave Robotics team — Bronwyn Grover, Nick Ogden, Luke South and Claire Edington — who connected with Mark Walker through their coach, Chris Steiner.

“It’s been a great collaboration. The kids have never sculpted before,” said Martell. “And finding out the dimensions of everything, it’s been an amazing group project.” HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: MICHAEL SPROLES - Mark Walker, Christine Martell, Claire Edington, Bronwyn Grover, Nick Ogden and Luke South show that Arty has heart.

For Arty it all started with a quarter-mile of baling wire, which acts as his skeletal structure. It took the team two months to weld everything together, which proved to be challenging, especially during the heat wave of the summer. His teeth, heart and toenails were all 3D-printed by Ogden, and his skin is made of four layers of duct tape. After running some skin tests, he was ready for the purple and green shades of paint.

“We were looking at colors that looked similar, but also contrasted,” said Grover. “Also, it looks pretty in the sunlight.”

But during Arty’s earlier stages, he was far from getting great big hugs and being a part of a happy family. In fact, to some kids, he looked more like a Terror-dactyl.

“When he was painted pitch black and had white teeth, kids ran away crying,” said Martell. “But now they love him. We hear kids screaming from a block away when he’s riding in his trailer to events.”

“We went to one event and I saw a little girl I didn’t even know in front of Arty telling a group of people his story,” said Walker.

Arty consistently stomps his way into events to make celebrity appearances and promote art, but he’s still a project in progress. During his down time he stays in a tent at Martell’s. After most events Arty attends, team members re-engineer and improve him, which can be difficult considering you can’t just Google how to build a dinosaur.

Evolution hasn’t stopped for Arty. The team is currently trying to make him animatronic — the technique of making and operating lifelike robots. They succeeded earlier, but according to Martell, little boys can’t resist slapping the dinosaur in the face.

Still, Arty doesn’t bite ...yet.

“We’re working on getting his head to move up, down, left and right — and eventually, he’ll be able to chomp,” said Walker.

But for now, Arty is far from a Tyrannosaurus wreck. He has his own website, artosaur.com, and boasts a nice following on his Facebook and Twitter profiles.

“We’re able to promote a lot with him, he helps get art shows’ attention, and when people see him, they get excited … they stick around to get invested in art,” said Martell.