Gainesville Solar Walk

A Joint Project of the City of Gainesville, Florida, the Alachua Astronomy Club, Inc.,
Tarpon Springs Artist Elizabeth Indianos, and Graphic Artist Saydi Kaufman

History of the Solar Walk

Did you know that the "solar system" was once missing? From 1993 to 1996, Gainesville had a solar system model along one of its busy streets. Our solar system made many friends until vandalism took its toll.

In 1993, Chip Sullivan, a Gainesville citizen and member of the AAC, developed the original concept for a solar walk in Gainesville. Mr. Sullivan helped raise money for a series of signs to be placed along NW 8th Avenue. These signs were conveniently placed for both Littlewood Elementary School, Westwood Middle School and Westside Park.

The Sun and each planet had its own sign. Signs were spaced to show the relative average sizes of each orbit using a scale of about four billion to one. Circles on the signs also showed the relative sizes of each planet compared with the Sun.

Unfortunately, by 1996, many of the signs had disappeared. School teachers, who took students to see Gainesville's "solar system," quickly noted the loss of the solar system signs. The missing signs stimulated Gainesville Sun columnist Gary Kirkland to write about the missing signs ("University & Main," Gainesville Sun, October 9, 1996 and October 16, 1996).

AAC Vice-President, Howard L. Cohen, responded to the loss of signs in a letter to the Gainesville Sun (October 17, 1998). The letter noted that the AAC would attempt to restore the signs at a future date. However, the project lay dormant until the last quarter of 1998.

In the Fall of 1998, the AAC began discussing the revival of the solar system model using more durable and vandal-resistant materials. Simultaneously, and unbeknownst to the AAC, the City of Gainesville discussed the same goal, and commissioned the Art in Public Places Trust (APPT) to oversee the project. The City also provided $5,000 to get the project rolling. The AAC fit in comfortably as fundraiser and consultant.

Following a "Call to Artists", Elizabeth Indianos was selected to create the obelisks. Her award winning design now adorns N.W. 8th Avenue. The AAC raised $25,000 between 1999 and Summer of 2001 to fund the planetary sculptures.

Information Plaques

Additional donations enabled the AAC to also add bronze information plaques on each monument, designed by AAC member and artist, Tim Malles.

A committee of AAC members designed the bronze plaques. Tim Malles dedicated innumerable hours rendering the final drawings, including creation of camera ready artwork for all ten 14-inch plaques, which he also helped to install.

Hundreds of hours were devoted to carving the monument lettering and recesses needed to mount the bronze plaques. Mike Toomey did much of this work.

Each of the plaques provide basic data on the solar system object. A dot or circle on the left side of each plaque is scaled to the disk of the Sun, represented by the diameter of the plaque. (Pam Mydock ascertained that 14 inches plaque diameter would give a correct scaled size of the sun.) An interpretive sign installed at the Solar Walk helps explain the information on these plaques.

In addition, donor plaques were added to the back sides of the Sun and Pluto monuments.

Other Enhancements

With the help of artist Elizabeth Indianos and graphic designer Saydi Kaufman, the AAC also added interpretive signs at each end of the Solar Wall and two park benches.

In 2009, the City funded Elizabeth Indianos to design, construct and erect add two Comet Halley markers (for perihelion and aphelion). Read more about these markers on the Solar Walk main page.

The AAC continues to need additional funds to add other improvements such as an asteroid rock garden.

© Alachua Astronomy Club, Inc.
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software