Summer Solstice Celebration at USF

By Daylina Miller

USF.edu News Writer

 

TAMPA, Fla. (June 21, 2010) – At 1:15 Monday afternoon, students and faculty battled the heat to gather around the metal and concrete sculpture behind Cooper Hall. As the minutes ticked by toward solar noon and beads of sweat multiplied on many slightly reddened faces, the crowd eagerly watched the metal shadow caster direct light around the center platform.

At 1:31 p.m. a circle of shadow was cast around the pedestal by the geocentric design, marking the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere. Students Ian Brockhouse and Kacy Cunningham danced around the platform, giggling and throwing out thanks to Apollo, the Greek and Roman god of the sun.

 

“I always celebrate the Summer Solstice,” said German international studies and economics major Laura Badertscher. “I appreciate the changing of the seasons.”

 

And there is much to appreciate about a sculpture on campus that shows tangible change of the season. There is no melting snow to celebrate or multi-colored leaves to rake up by the bundle to mark shifting Florida seasons.

 

“Summer solstice in Florida is when the temperature goes from hot to unbearably hot,” said music performance major Henri Delavega, laughing. “I’ve been here for five years and keep saying I’m going to come out for this but never do. Now I am.”

 

In the crowd, one man remarked, “I’ve been waiting for years to see this and I always miss it!”

 

To many on campus, the sculpture looks like no more than a large, distorted birdcage of metal and geometric design. But in 1995, “Solar Rotary” was commissioned to be built by artist Nancy Holt, who worked in conjunction with Jack Robinson, a retired archaeo-astronomer and a professor emeritus at USF. The goal was to design an art piece that specifically marked the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.

 

Groans were heard from students each time a cloud mass passed over the sky, blocking out the light. Without the sun’s rays to cast shadows, the sculpture is no more a time piece than a watch without a battery. But cheers rang out as the clouds parted right before solar noon, the sun’s highest point in the sky.

 

Summer solstice celebrations occurred throughout the world. CBS News reported that in England Monday morning, thousands of new-agers and neo-pagans danced and cheered as the sun rose over Stonehenge, a stone monument that may have been used as an ancient sun dial.

 

Brockhouse and Cunningham convinced their Shakespeare teacher to let them out for a quick break to observe the summer solstice. Brockhouse said he was excited about the good timing because Midsummer Night’s Dream addressed the solstice and they had just finished reading it.

Solar Rotary was funded partially by sponsorship from the Tampa Tribune and partially through the state’s public art program. A percentage of building construction costs in the state is allotted to the creation of public art.

Not only does the sculpture cast a circle of light on summer solstice but on five specific days of the year, at a specific time each day, Solar Rotary casts its circle of light around plaques placed in the ground of the concrete plaza that mark historic events in Florida and Tampa. Seating is also provided both around the perimeter of the plaza, and on four benches set into the nearby landscape marking the cardinal directions, North, South, East and West.

 

Daylina Miller covers student activities and trends. She can be reached at 813-500-8754.