Planetarium Comes Alive With Performance Art

Sarah Elkeaikati

If you have ever had an astronomy class, you have experienced it.

It is arguably the most notable feature on campus.

To many students, it is the Glendale Community College landmark.

It is, of course, the digital planetarium.

Although its main use is to help the astronomy instructors show students the stars, planets, moons, and constellations and on a sky like projection, the planetarium is being utilized for other things such as art.

The campus has been hosting events where artists incorporate the dome to express their artistic ability.

Digital Planetarium Tech Specialist Paul Buehler was the first to see the potential of the planetarium outside of its scientific uses.

“After seeing the dome and what it could do, I thought we should reach out to other departments,” he said.

The first to take advantage of the dome for artistic purposes was J. Walt, a computer programmer and animator, who put his artistic talents to use on a bigger scale by incorporating it into the planetarium.

After synchronizing Walt’s program, which he created himself to fit the needs of his art, the planetarium was ready for a different kind of performance.

Walt’s performance, titled “Spontaneous Fantasia,” is a combination of spur-of-the-moment creativity, animation and music.
The artist stands with his back to the audience and simultaneously uses his drawing tablet, mini-controller and joy stick to create animated masterpieces to the beat of the music.

The audience views various colors and patterns being drawn sporadically on screen and simultaneously moves through each area of the space like a virtual roller coaster.
The music, Walt’s own compositions, provides the audience with the mood of each piece, be it somber or energetic, and also gives pattern and rhythm to the art.

Although programming was his job, Walt has been composing music on the side for at least ten years.

“The two were something totally unrelated that ended up being very related,” said Walt of the combination of his skills. “The music is the framework for each piece.”

Walt will have six performances a month until December when he and Buehler will discuss the future schedule.

GRONK, another artist known for his expressionistic work, had his dome videos shown in the planetarium during seven performances this month.

Upcoming planetarium events include The Evening with the Stars, an exploration of the stars and solar system using the Digital Sky and Digital Universe software as well as telescopes on the balcony.

Also, Students in the Dome shows will feature work by planetarium interns and student workers presenting some of their projects and the things they have learned.
“It is being billed as a series of shows for the students, by the students,” said Buehler.

Time and date information for all shows is available at: