App-controlled Sculpture comes to Palo Alto

Aurora, an interactive light sculpture shaped like a willow tree, was moved and temporarily installed in front of City Hall in downtown Palo Alto on Nov. 16 from an art festival in Nevada to Palo Alto for a year. A group effort, started by two elementary school children, raised the funds to move the tree, which will stay in Palo Alto for a year.

Bay Area artist Charles Gadeken created the sculpture to display at the  Burning Man art festival in Nevada in 2011. The parent of two Palo Alto students took a photo of the sculpture while at the festival.

Palo Alto High School students like the display and appreciate the artwork brought to Palo Alto by residents and by the city government. Senior Eli Weitzman is glad that City Hall will have some beauty to distract from its monotonous shape.

“The light sculpture in front of City Hall is actually really amazing,” Weitzman said. “It’s going to bring a lot of beauty to the city and it makes the boring, old, tall building a lot better.”

Walter Hays Elementary School students Sam and Julia Hirschman became invested in bringing the piece of art to Palo Alto after they were shown the picture. They admired its beauty and thought it would look great in front of City Hall.

Aurora was brought to Palo Alto after a huge effort by the two students and the Palo Alto community at large. The project was thought to cost $100 thousand, and the students attempted to raise money through a fundraising campaign.

They did not raise the full amount, but the students were able to get enough money to bring the sculpture to Palo Alto, although not enough to do all necessary revisions. The city also waived the usual fees that would be required to put artwork on public property.

In order to raise the rest of the funds, those who worked to bring the statue made a crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter. According to the website’s policy, the goal must be fully filled for the person to receive the money.

Although the goal is to raise $100 thousand, they have only raised $30 thousand so far. In order to get all the money, they would need to raise the remaining $70 thousand within four days in order to get the payoff, which seems unlikely. Regardless, the project is already in Palo Alto and is likely to stay for the entire time whether or not the full funds are raised.

The sculpture is completely controlled by smart phones of those looking at it.

Those who download the app can control the brightness and color of the lights on Aurora. In order to control the piece of art, one must connect to its independent wireless network and use controls to change the color and design.

Although not completely customizable to the user, the web application allows one to control the color, speed and pattern of the lights on the sculpture.

“I really like [Aurora],” Julia Hirschman said. “It’s really pretty and it kind of brings hope to people.”