Ephemeral flowers accompany the “Spring Wings” art installation that has been on display in Mission Plaza. During the month of May, the Cal Poly Rose Float crafted an art installation showcasing the process behind building a Rose Float design. 

The Cal Poly team collaborated with the city of San Luis Obispo, Downtown SLO and Karson Butler events. This is one of many Plaza pop-up art installations that Mission Plaza in Downtown San Luis Obispo has been hosting since December.

Amber Karson of Karson Butler Events said she and her team have been strategic partners with the city of San Luis Obispo since the inception of this program, which has since been extended each month because of its popularity. 

“85 businesses around downtown have all painted their windows with different floral designs to help spread what we’re doing in Mission Plaza throughout the whole downtown and encourage people to walk around,” Karson said. 

Karson and her team also built the May Flower Initiative selfie wall frame, incorporating decorations from Cal Poly’s Rose Float team. 

“This is something that lives and breathes all month long and something that people can enjoy at leisure and stroll through,” Karson said. 

This installation named, “Spring Wings,” will ultimately feature a butterfly escaping a flower pot that will undergo a transformation throughout the month. It will end with a design fit for the Rose Parade, according to Rose Float President and computer science junior Regina Chapuis. 

About thirty Cal Poly students contributed to the project, including eighteen people on leadership and other general members, she said. The team takes the installation back to their workshop at Cal Poly during the week to add more components, until its final weekend.

Each week the installation undergoes its gradual transformation, mirroring the process of its three main teams: construction, design and decorations. 

The construction is the structure and moving parts of the design, involving the structural holding of the pot and butterfly and spinning flowers. The design team shapes the structure to their design, like painting, woodwork and welding. Lastly, the design team will lead the floral arrangement and finalize the product on May 22 and 23.

The team was approached at the end of winter quarter and began their preparations at the beginning of April.

“[In preparations we were] starting to build the structure out of pencil steel and the supports for that,” Chapuis said. “As we got closer, we started to work with foam to put around the flower pot to give it a smooth surface and worked with screen and window mesh.”

English senior and Rose Float Vice President Avi McManus said the team used materials such as purple and yellow statice flowers and marigolds for the dry elements, onion seed and rice powder for smaller elements, and white carnations, brightly colored gerbera daisies and lunaria for the fresh flowers.

“[For the typical Rose Parade] the floats exist for 24 hours in the format we built them,” McManus said. “They get judged, they are at a location overnight and then they roll down Colorado Boulevard, and they’re done because the flowers wilt.”

For McManus, this art installation serves as a long-form project for the team, and for the community to enjoy. 

“[The installation] is going to be a huge spring explosion of color in the plaza and give our team a lot of good practice for [the upcoming Rose Parade] this winter,” McManus said. 

McManus thinks the metamorphosis butterfly metaphor can have a deeper meaning for the Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo community. 

“If San Luis Obispo, as well as our team, can harness the metamorphosis change, ‘Let’s emerge from his cocoon,’” McManus said. 

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