If you have visited Potomac Science Center recently, you may have noticed our brand-new Mural Sediment to Sky, the brain child of Dr. Cindy Smith which has been brought to life by Mason Art student Nadya “Bella” Steare, under the auspices of “Murals at Mason”. This new mural is part of long running efforts by Dr. Cindy Smith to ensure that Potomac Science Center hosts exhibits that can teach the public about our research when no staff is present to explain them.
The top or Sky portion of the staircase mural highlights native trees and the ever-present bald eagle as well as shadows of geese flying over the river. Artwork on each stair riser depicts study organisms and tools of Potomac Science Center researchers. The goal was to evoke the feeling that one was descending into to the Potomac River as they descend the steps into our exhibit hall,
like an osprey from the sky into to the Potomac River, through the water column inhabited by fish and water fleas, and ending in the benthic depths as they descend the steps into our exhibit hall. Taking a sharp left turn at the bottom of the stairs, one encounters a wall mural, an idyllic scene of marsh fauna and students sampling, featuring many of the tools which we use to study freshwater ecosystems.
Murals at Mason will produce more permanent signage in the near future, however temporary signage is viewable now. Many will recognize the local floral and fauna which they often spot on the Occoquan. We also suggest a scavenger hunt, with visitors searching for our various research tools, such as nets, drones, sondes, and remote operated vehicles. All of these help us collect scientific knowledge for a multitude of research studies.
We are very pleased with how the Murals at Mason team worked closely with the researchers at Potomac Science Center, repeatedly providing drafts, into which we added our favorite organisms and our most used research tools, something rarely included in nature murals. Another unique aspect of this mural is that as the sun rises and moves across the river and through the windows, different organisms are highlighted and hidden in the shadows on the staircase.