The sun and moon have been recurring images for artist Samantha Rausch throughout her life. It began in her childhood, growing up in Maryland, where her parents had masks of the sun and crescent moon hanging on the wall. Rausch and her crew recently constructed these images on a gigantic scale at ReUse Depot in Maywood. They were completed in time for display at Artscape, in Baltimore.
Billed as the largest free arts festival in the U.S., Artscape was held July 15-17. “Celestial Light” was one of the festival’s anchor pieces, prominently displayed on the St. Charles Bridge, next to Pennsylvania Station. Rausch said the crowd’s response was very strong and positive, which was rewarding for the artist and her crew who had just completed a mammoth undertaking.
The project began when the Baltimore Public Arts Office awarded a grant to Rausch to create “Celestial Light.” Rausch was living in the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago and had a friend who knew Kyle Fitzgerald, the proprietor of ReUse Depot. Fitzgerald was open to hosting the crew and providing the lumber and metal needed to construct the enormous pieces. He allowed them to use the former armory space, which is the size of a high school gym with a 40-foot ceiling.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better place to build it,” Rausch said.
Rausch was facilities manager at Redmoon Theater and has a master’s degree in Fine Art and her crew are also veterans of Redmoon. The theater put on the “Chicago Fire Festival” two years in a row. With “Celestial Light,” Rausch and her crew are keeping the spirit of the theater alive by bringing art to people in their everyday environment. They began work on “Celestial Light” in late-April, by constructing 25-foot wooden towers to serve as interior supports for the structures.
“We needed lots of lumber,” Rausch said. “ReUse Depot has so much affordable building material.”
They used steel tubing to create the frames for the sun and moon.
“We bent it all on-site,” she said. “It was a long process. We also did lots of welding to create connections.” While some team members worked on building the structures, others were busy sewing together the white fabric to cover them. The crew put in 10-hour days, seven days a week. But she said the working environment, was so pleasant, no one complained.
“Everyone here at ReUse Depot was so kind to us,” Rausch said. “They’d make sure we had enough water to stay hydrated. They are so involved in helping the community, and they’ve created this socially-engaging place. It’s like a harbor for the community. They gave me and my team a home to build our dream.”
Rausch made sure her “dream” was structurally sound. Architect Sarah Sutherlin signed off on the plans. After the structural work was completed, the plan was to cover each piece with white fabric. They would then install colored interior lighting to make them glow at night. As if light weren’t enough, they also provided sound. They would have musicians inside the pieces serenading the crowd.
A platform was built on top of the “sun” to accommodate a drum kit. In Baltimore, the drummer would play a duet with a guitarist. There would also be a musician inside the “moon” playing sitar and harp. He would be costumed as a “moon man.” This piece had another unique feature: a bridge that allowed patrons to walk through the moon. The crescent moon is a powerful image for Rausch. “I’ve always loved the crescent moon — its growing potential, so full of possibilities.”
“The sun and moon are symbolic icons that collapse time and space,” she continued. “We’re all seeing the same sun and moon all over the world. We all share these symbols. That brings hope to my heart.”
These symbols were constructed at ReUse Depot in such a way that they could be flat-packed into the crew’s 26-foot box truck. Rausch said this process went smoothly. The crew then caravanned to Baltimore, traveling 16 hours straight. Now the most grueling task had to be done. They worked 27 hours straight to install “Celestial Light.”
“I couldn’t have done it without my 10-person team,” Rausch said. “We took turns taking two-hour power naps.”
They completed the installation on time for the July 15 opening. “All the work paid off when the sculptures were activated by our musicians. People were interacting with the sculptures.” It caused a sensation.
Rausch said “Celestial Light” is only the starting point of a series of sculptures and musical performances she has planned. She would also like to see her sun and moon on display in her adopted city of Chicago. The Windy City might consider holding an event like Artscape. It pumped $26 million into Baltimore’s economy.
The festival displayed sculptures that are truly out of this world.