Shining a light on art

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Most years, the summer solstice is simply an acknowledgement of the impending months of sunscreen and sweat, but this year, Norman is marking the new season with a celebration.

Norman Public Library East and the Norman Arts Council are celebrating this year's summer solstice Friday with a Summer Solstice Celebration and the launch of a solar-powered community art project at 3051 Alameda St.

"Nature's a really important part of our focus at that particular branch since we're really that one community space that connects rural Norman to urban Norman," branch manager Kelly Sitzman said. "We're really trying to offer programming and offer events that focus on the topic of nature, and so interacting with the solstice was another exciting thing following that theme of nature."

The solstice celebration was inspired by the public art piece at the east side library. Prairie Wind, created by artist James Johnson as part of Norman Forward, includes a carved opening positioned so that the sun's rays will pass through it on the summer solstice and shine directly on the library.

"[Johnson] is going to have a lecture on the inspiration behind the piece and what drew him to create it," Sitzman said. "Then, after the event is over, we'll go outside and take a look at the sculpture together."

At the statue dedication, Johnson said the art piece is representative of the way the prairie wind interacts with nature and the cycle it goes through.

Johnson's lecture is at 4 p.m., and he will be joined by Mayor-elect Breea Clark and representatives from the Norman Arts Council.

The library also will host solar-themed activities throughout the day, including sunrise yoga on the patio at 7 a.m., solstice meditation at 8 a.m., summer solstice story time at 11 a.m. and solstice solar printing at 5:30 p.m.

"Solar printing uses a special kind of material that when you put it out in the sun … it bleaches everything out," Sitzman said. "We are going to be placing objects on it, so when you remove the objects … [it] leaves this really bright pattern of whatever object was obscuring the sun."

Advance registration for the summer solstice story time and solstice solar printing is encouraged, but not required.

The Summer Solstice Celebration will also include the launching of the Museo Aero Solar, a floating art installation made of plastic bags and powered by solar energy.

The piece was designed by Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno and has been recreated by over 28 communities worldwide.

"We were looking for an art project to do in relation with the solstice down at the library, and so we felt like it was a perfect fit," Norman Arts Council Executive Director Erinn Gavaghan said.

Over the past week, the Norman Arts Council has collected over 400 used plastic bags from Norman residents.

"We thought this was also a great project that shows a creative solution to a material that is not recyclable," Gavaghan said. "It also is a visual of a fraction of the bags that … people have lying around their houses or, even worse, that get thrown away."

The community is invited to help build the Museo Aero Solar from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at The Mercury, 426 E. Main St.

"We were hoping that we would get over 400 bags, and I think we've definitely surpassed that," Gavaghan said. "We can go as grand as we want. It'll just make the piece larger and more impactful."

The structure will be launched at 2 p.m. Friday at Norman Public Library East.

"We hope to make this an ongoing project too and continue to add to it," Gavaghan said. "The beauty of public art is that you can use projects like this to address a community issue."

Visit https://bit.ly/2IpoK2g for more information or to register for summer solstice story time or solstice solar printing.

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