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Art and science will merge in new project


Planetary Path will recreate the solar system in Newberg, on a very small scale

Come next year, locals and visitors to Newberg can boldly go where no one has gone before.

Sort of.

A new project, dubbed the Planetary Path of Newberg, is taking shape and will involve a scientifically accurate scale model of the solar system being constructed in and around the cultural district as part of a three-quarter-mile walking tour.

According to Claudia Stewart, communications director for the Newberg School District and a member of the team that is bringing the vision to life, the project was picked because it involves several elements and, therefore, could have wide-reaching benefits.

“There just was interest in doing a project that incorporated art and science with education and tourism opportunities,” she said. “This was not only educational and interesting, but different and fun as well.”

The team is a group of 30 local government, education, business, religious, nonprofit and civic leaders from the Newberg-Dundee area. It was assembled as part of the Ford Institute Leadership Program (FILP). This is the third local incarnation of FILP. The two previous teams also did projects, namely, the community garden outside St. Michael Episcopal Church and the Chehalem Paddle Launch.

What the Planetary Path will look like exactly, once it’s completed, is somewhat in flux. Members of the team are still working on the design, and it will also be somewhat dependent on the artists who are eventually commissioned to create the outdoor installations. The committee is accepting proposals now for six of the planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune.

One of the most frequent challenges in creating scale models of the solar system is the vastly disparate sizes of the celestial bodies, the sun in particular. Since, in Newberg’s model, the sun will be “not huge,” that means the planets will be tiny. Stewart estimated that Uranus, for example, will be about the size of a nickel.

“They’re pretty darn small,” she said. “In most cases, whatever structural context the artist creates will be much bigger than the actual representation of the planet.”

According to the specifications that have been put out to artists, the overall footprints of the models may be up to 3-foot-by-3-foot, and their heights will be between 3 and 5 feet. Because some of the models will be located on land that is owned either by the city of Newberg, school district or Chehalem Park and Recreation District, the governing bodies of the three agencies have all been approached and expressed their approval of the project.

“All the districts were very supportive,” she said.

The Chehalem Cultural Center is serving as the fiscal agent for the project and will be the owner of record once it’s complete, Stewart said. The project is being funded by a $5,000 grant from the Ford Family Foundation, as well as other grants and in-kind contributions.