The University of Wyoming Art Museum is celebrating the longest day of the year — the summer solstice — by hosting its annual celebration this Saturday.
The free event, which occurs yearly on or near the summer solstice, celebrates the longest day and the official beginning of summer.
“(The event) has grown to a larger celebration over the last five years,” said Katie Christensen, curator of Education and Statewide Engagement at the UW Art Museum.
About 250 people participate in the midday event every year, including visitors passing through Laramie.
“We love to see families, tourists passing through town and locals who come every year,” Christensen said. She added one year, after partnering with the United States Post Office, nearly 900 people came to the event.
This year, however, because of COVID-19 restrictions, the museum has limited capacity in the Rotunda Gallery, where the solstice ceremony takes place. Visitors are allowed into the gallery space on a first-come, first-served basis at 11:45 a.m., according to a news release.
“If we reach capacity, visitors may be asked to wait outside until other guests leave so that we can honor the current COVID capacity restrictions as dictated by the university and state of Wyoming,” Christensen said.
Once visitors are in the gallery, they will witness a unique architectural feature in which a single beam of sunlight shines through a solar tube in the ceiling of the gallery. At noon, the beam will illuminate a 1923 peace dollar that has been placed at the center of the gallery floor.
Members of the Astronomical Society and Space Observers will have telescopes set up on the museum terrace for visitors to safely view the surface of the sun.
“For over a decade, LASSO member Ray Martin brought his special solar telescope (to the event),” Christensen said, “but unfortunately, he passed away last year.”
The partnership continues in honor of Martin and each year, beginning this Saturday, LASSO members will be on hand with the specially equipped telescopes to assist visitors and answer questions.
“Each member is quite knowledgeable, but we are never quite sure what the surface of the sun will look like the day of the event,” Christensen said.
To help celebrate the longest day of the year, the museum is also hosting a variety of free, family-friendly, art-making stations on the terrace, including cyanotype printmaking, collaborative light and shape drawing and a sculpture make-and-take activity inspired by artist Collin Parson.
The first art activity, a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print, utilizes natural sunlight to process the print. The drawing station uses transparencies and colored vinyl. All materials are free and provided to participants on site and each activity is led by a guide.
“Everything is free … you bring creativity and willingness to make inspired artworks,” Christensen said.
Additionally, a free smoothie bike will be available for guests of all ages to make smoothies by using their own leg power.
There will also be a ticketed cocktail party in the evening for adults 21-years-old or older.
During the ceremony, guests will be at liberty to view the various galleries exhibited in the museum, including the newest installation in the Rotunda Gallery entitled “Light Ellipse”, which uses light, pattern and color to create perceptual light and space works, Director and Chief Curator Nicole Crawford said.
The installation consists of two slowly changing colors of light that separated by a 12-foot vertical ellipse or oval shape.
“The round space is transformed into a spiritual, meditative environment through the combination of light and shape in absence of anything else,” Crawford said.
Other exhibitions include “Something’s Off: Painting by Harold Garde and Ron Kroutel”; “Staff Selects III from the UW Art Museum Collection”; “Seen/Scene: Celebrity Photographs from the Collection”; Women in Wyoming: Portraits and Interviews of Women Who Shape the West”; and “The West on Horseback: From the UW Art Museum Collection.”
“Each year is different … (and) this year coming out of COVID, we aren’t sure what to expect,” Christensen said regarding anticipated turn out for this year’s solstice celebrations.
“But (we) are happy to welcome people back into our building and galleries,” she added.
For more information, visit www.uwyo.edu/artmuseum or follow the museum’s Facebook page @uwyoartmuseum.