When this year’s Fine Arts students and teachers at H-F were looking for inspiration, they looked to the skies and also down the street. Renowned astrophysicist Dr. Eugene Parker, 92, was until very recently a longtime resident of the community. In the 1950s he developed the theory of the supersonic solar wind and predicted the spiral shape of the solar magnetic field in the outer solar system. When NASA decided to name its Parker Solar Probe after him — making him the first living person to be memorialized in this way by NASA — a special collaborative high school project was launched.
The Homewood-Flossmoor Solar Wind Celebration — set for Saturday, May 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the school’s Mall Auditorium — will have Dr. Parker in attendance as the school’s special guest. The event is planned to be a fully immersive light-and-sound experience with performances by the school’s choir, orchestra, theatre and band students, plus visual displays by the school’s art students and the unveiling of Solar Wind, a legacy sculpture created by the school’s Ceramics & Sculpture students.
Two Homewood-Flossmoor Fine Arts teachers, Mike Rugen and Greg Petecki, have been working hard to create this a wider community event in advance of NASA’s planned launch of the Parker Solar Probe this summer.
“We are planning much more than a concert, but rather an art experience for all who attend,” says Petecki. “This is a wonderful opportunity to inspire students and the community as a whole and to share with them the special connection between art and science.”
Highlights for the event — which will be emceed by school alumnus and NASA researcher Jesse Collins, ’02— include science-themed overtures performed by the school’s Chamber Orchestra, Sinfonia and Viking Orchestra students, under the direction of BJ Engrav, H-F Fine Arts teacher. Band students will be performing Solar Winds for Concert Band, a three-movement composition by Heather Hoefle, band director from Flossmoor’s Parker Junior High School, plus a solar-inspired percussion piece, written by Jon Jackson, H-F Fine Arts teacher.
Under the direction of Rugen, the school’s choral groups — Bel Canto, Concert Choir and Viking Choir — will perform three songs, including Solis Ventus, a commissioned piece for the event written by local composer and alumni parent Fred Hanzelin.
For the visual experience, there will be a gallery of graphic design pieces to view, plus the unveiling of the Solar Wind sculpture, created by the following student-artists with luminism in the style of artists Yayoi Kusama and James Turrell: DeJa Fuller, Raeann Gilbert, Damante Gray, Morgan Jennings, Samuel Jones, Danielle Jordan, Jacob Kirlin, Winston Langston, Alexandra Lowry, Zoe Monroe, Kirsten Moore, Rachael Rusek, Marneay Small and Alexia Wade.
Organizers say they hope attendees leave this once-in-a-lifetime event feeling like they are a part of something much bigger than themselves.
“The H-F community has been a place where an astrophysicist settled his family, became the focus of a space project and launch by NASA; a place where young artists have excelled and helped create one of the best art programs in the state; and where musician possess the ability to put thoughts to paper to create new compositions,” says Rugen. “We are excited to bring this celebration of Dr. Parker and of our community to our audience and I hope they leave the event feeling inspired and exhilarated.”
More about Dr. Parker: He worked at the University of Chicago since 1955, holding positions in the Physics Department, Astronomy & Astrophysics Department and the Enrico Fermi Institute. In 2018, the American Physical Society awarded him the Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research.