Planetarium sculptures form ‘Solar Walk’ on campus

Brandon Pledger

What are they? Where do they come from? More importantly, how do they work?

If you think back to finals week, you will recall silver galaxy-shaped sculptures stretching down the Pedestrian. What started for Clayton Heller and Sarah Higdon, physics professors, as an ambitious cosmic journey has taken its first steps towards launch, and it is only up from here.

The idea was first conceptualized by Heller and Higdon in 2006, and was shaped by forces of Georgia Southern University’s Art Department.

The planetarium is a long-standing attraction of the University, and its newest addition has been a sequence of sculptures named after the planets in our solar system. Starting at the Math & Physics Building, the models sprawl down the main Pedestrian and reach out as far as the College of Education.

For Heller and Higdon, it has been a demanding project.

“It took us a while to collaborate with someone on the physical sculpture. It wasn’t until 2008 that we started our collaboration with Marc Moulton. He was really the brains behind the sculptures,” Heller said.

If you happen to pass one on the way to class, you might see a black cord wrapped around the base of the design.

“The idea of a ‘Solar Walk’ is not new itself, but we have taken some twists to make ours more functional art,” Heller said. “They aren’t completed yet. The cords are for solar lighting, but we’re going to replace those and go with solar panels instead. They’re hollow, so we plan to put lights in them.”

Once the exhibit is complete, it will serve as a scavenger hunt of sorts for more than 8,000 K-12 students in the surrounding Bulloch County area.

It has been more than a ten-year journey for the Physics Department to see the sculptures come to life, and while they are not functional quite yet, Heller and Higdon are finally seeing the work of their department begin manifest on campus.