Artist reveals project with a purpose



Posted on January 5, 2011 at 7:27 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 8:08 AM

Artist Barna Kantor planted a seed nearly three years ago to create his symbolic "Solar Tree."

Born in Hungary, Kantor has been creating works of art in Austin for nearly 10 years.

“In so many cultures there is a single large tree representing the community,” said Kantor.

His labor of love is now complete. The steel structure bends to the environment around it, while harnessing the sun. It uses 10 solar panels and produces two kilowatts of energy that supplies Austin Energy's power grid.

He designed it so that each Dec. 21st at noon on the winter solstice, the tree casts a shadow that perfectly aligns with an image on the ground.

“It’s a real eclipse,” Kantor said. “The tree has several functions: it gives shade, collects energy, it becomes a gathering place for a community.

Solar markers on the ground capture the sun’s rays during the day creating a glow of energy at night.

solar panels

“It provides light during the night,” Kantor said.

The "Solar Tree" is part of an art in public places project. It was paid for by bond money.

“We’re excited about this piece,” Jean Graham with Art in Public Places said. “It brings together both art as function, aesthetic value, and education. It just really works very well.”

The project cost $58,000. Austin Energy kicked in $13,000 because executives were excited the "Solar Tree" would save energy.

“They were excited that the 'Solar Tree' would bring energy into the grid of Austin,” Graham said.

When the new Dittmar Rec Center opens this winter in South Austin, some of that harnessed energy will be used to power it.

As for Barna Kantor, he hopes his "Solar Tree" creates deep roots in this South Austin neighborhood.

"I’m just hoping people will see an opportunity to raise the value of their neighborhood,” Kantor said.