R2-D2 robot keg gains Louisana artist a national spotlight

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 3:52pm

Southern Living voted LSU as one of the best places in the nation for tailgating. And that was long before a video of a robotic keg was posted online and subsequently captured national attention.

“It was out there at every game last year, but I guess this year the right person saw it and posted it everywhere,” Barton Gilley, creator of a “Star Wars” themed keg called ‘R2-DBrew,” explained.

Gilley and is life-long friends work tirelessly to produce an exciting tailgate experience at each LSU home game.

“We have tents. We have satellite TV. We have a lot of food that we get together,” Gilley said. “It’s a ton of work.”

Gilley and his krewe set up shop at the parade grounds on the corner of Highland Road and Dalrymple. The prime spot certainly gets a lot of foot traffic.

“A friend of mine snagged the spot a couple of years ago and we’ve been able to maintain that spot ever since.”

Although every member of the group provides something to make their prime tailgating real-estate attractive to not only it’s member, but to those passing by as well, it’s Gilley’s creation that tends to have them amazed.

“It’s pure amazement,” Gilley said when explaining how people tend to react. “People don’t expect it to move. They see it and they think ‘oh cool’ and then when it starts blinking and turning, they just get blown away.”

Gilley may have brewed up the final product, but it was a random comment that got his creative brain turning.

“A friend of mine and I were sitting around one night and we were talking about ideas to make our tailgate awesome,” Gilley recalled. “He jokingly said ‘what if we had a keg shaped like R2-D2.’”

Gilley got to work on the concept, which evolved from initial humble thoughts of making a keg-topper out of papier-mâché, to a full-on, motion activated robot.

“That’s how I get with art projects. It just keeps going and going and it either gets better and better or it gets worse and worse,” Gilley joked.

Although everyone is amazed by the keg that serves as functional art, that amazement is magnified once they learn a bit more about its creator.

“I’m actually not very computer savvy,” Gilley said with a laugh. “It [R2-DBrew] actually runs off 1950’s technology. Most people think I’m a total computer nerd.”

In reality, Gilley is more of an artist who is mechanically inclined.

“There’s probably way better projects out there that are more high tech, but I think people like this because I was able to put the engineering and art aspect together into one piece,” Gilley said. “It’s like they say, engineers are all planning and no action and artists are all action and no planning. I’m a little of both.”

In fact, Gilley is a graduate of LSU from the College of Art and Design with a concentration in sculpture.

“If I had a project in school, I would always try to make it something robotic, something functional, and something interactive,” he said. “If the project guidelines didn’t allow that, I would still try to figure out a way to fit it in.”

Now, Gilley is trying to figure out how his little keg that’s gaining big attention will fit into his future.

“I actually talked to a patent lawyer in the past and he told me to wait and see where it goes,” Gilley said when discussing if he’s ever considered trying to reproduce the project. “I would just like to keep making art and projects and somehow start making money from it. The money would go directly into another project.”

Whether or not he could even reproduce this one-of-a-kind piece, Gilley is unsure.

“Right now I’m trying to make another one as a sort of personal challenge,” he said. “The first one was built out of scrap, and I just found random things to use. Hopefully, with the next one, I can make molds and make it a streamline process.”

Whether or not he makes another one, or hundreds of them, Gilley is just happy that so many people are seeing his creation.

“I’ve put a lot of work and time into this, so it feels really good to be rewarded for all that hard work, even if it’s not in a monetary way,” Gilley said.


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