‘Winter Fountains’ celebrates a Ben Franklin discovery through art

A new art installation on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway aims to get travelers and visitors to reflect on one of Franklin’s important discoveries. “Winter Fountains” is a digital art animation piece of icy particles projected onto four domes on the Parkway.

The art was inspired by Franklin’s discovery that static electricity and lightning are actually the same thing, artist Jennifer Steinkamp said at Aviator Park on Thursday evening after a ceremonial lighting of the dome installed across from the Franklin Institute.

“I thought, how is lightning formed in clouds? And so it’s small particles of ice bumping into each other, forming static electricity which becomes lightning — this is inspired by that,” she said.

The proximity of art and science museums, business, and churches on the Parkway got her considering the diversity of opinions in the space. The lightning in the animation is hand drawn, and there are tiny pictures drawn onto the particles to discover, which reflect Steinkamp’s wonder at the origin of life.

On Thursday night, children around the domes were compelled to try to beat their way inside, and many visitors took photos. In the daytime, the domes, which are textured with glitter, will sparkle like the Parkway’s fountains do during on-seasons. Steinkamp said that she hopes the work sparks curiosity in its viewers and that they learn more about Franklin. She read three Franklin biographies about during the creation of “Winter Fountains.”

The installation is the centerpiece of “Parkway 100,” which commemorates 100 years since the groundbreaking for the Parkway, and was commissioned by the Association for Public Art. “Winter Fountains” continues through March 18.

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