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Sun sculpture unveiled at Hall of Science

The New York Hall of Science, continuing its rich tradition of diversity in exhibiting technology and the arts, unveiled a dramatic new sculpture at its front entrance plaza in Flushing Meadows Corona Park last Thursday.

A crowd of schoolchildren and dignitaries were on hand to mark the continuation of the institution’s long history of notable art works and educational programming that have become the hallmark of its existence. At the core of the morning’s event was the unveiling of the dramatic bronze Sun Sculpture, stretching an imposing 13 feet in diameter and weighing 2,500 pounds. It is a wonderful and natural time piece that sends the imagination back to an era when mankind was not equipped with the complexities and luxuries of modern technology, but rather, still appreciated and utilized its access to nature for guidance, and more specifically, to the sun for the time of day.

Director of the New York Hall of Science Alan Friedman, in explaining the sun sculpture’s function, said that it is one of way of communicating science through our natural surrounding.

The sculpture works in tandem with the solar system. It is divided into four tracks, each representing one of the four seasons of the year. As each season changes, so does the light moving over its surface, thus reflecting the rhythmic pattern of the year. One of the sculpture’s central features is the gnomon, a double bar fixed in the center of the bottom half, designed to hit the centerline of the lower half at noon. It also indicates other hours of the day by falling on the smaller hour-marker disks.

Just minutes before noon, to show how the sundial works, attendees were issued paper replicas of the sculpture and were walked through a brief demonstration of its operation. The curious crowd anxiously awaited noon. As the clock hit the noon mark, the gnomon slowly synchronized with the smaller models issued, causing a loud round of applause from the excited crowd, including the Sun Sculpture’s sculptor, Maty Grunberg.

“Time is very precious, and the moment you become aware, it presents a consciousness,” said Grunberg, in his slight Israeli accent. He has had an outstanding career, with pieces in some major museums throughout the world. “It moves in perfect motion with real time,” he added.

Students were excited by the day’s events and the ability to participate with the artist. “I’m excited to be learning all this,” said Liliana Vasquez, 11, of Walt Whitman MS 246, in Brooklyn. “I’m having fun.”

A shy but awed Anayka Ramos, 11, said, “This is interesting. I never knew this could happen,” referring to her witnessing the paper-made sundial she clutched tightly in her hand synchronizing in time with the huge one behind her pointing skywards.

Their teacher, Eric Calvo, said it was a way of allowing his students to “apply what they learned in the classroom to real-life situations.”

The Sun Sculpture, funded by New York Hall of Science trustees Richard and Joan Scheuer, took three years to build. They said they were inspired to have the piece made after witnessing a similar display in England.

“It is very gratifying to see its completion, and as time goes by I hope it will be easier for children to understand,” Joan Scheuer said. “It is an artist’s representation for us to understand the mechanics and motion of the sun and moon, around the earth,” Richard Scheuer added.

Friedman briefed the revelers on the purity of the sculpture, then went indoors to a theater where he delved further, explaining the ancient developments which led to the realization of measured time. His enlightening discourse contained pictures of sunsets from different parts of the globe.

Wendy Brez, the museum’s public relations manager, said, “The art piece is not only for admiring, but should be taken as an appreciative step in science.”

The New York Hall of Science, which is ranked as one of the best science museums in the country, has more than 225 hands-on exhibits to explore a wide area of science.

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