The public can get a glimpse of the Cal Poly’s Rose Float team’s process by visiting their large-scale floral art project this month at the Mission Plaza in San Luis Obispo.
The project, named “Spring Wings,” is a work-in-progress on display, using the process the team uses to create floats for the annual Tournament of Roses Parade.
“The art installation showcases the major stages of Rose Parade float building,” said Josh D’acquisto, the Rose Float coordinator and advisor. “The Construction Phase, a steel sculpture covered in screen and foam; the Design Phase which adds the color and details; and the Decorations Phase, where all of the surfaces will be covered in flowers and other natural materials per the Rose Parade rules.”
The project began when Downtown SLO, which promotes the downtown economy, approached the team, asking them to contribute to the May Flower Initiative. A part of that public art offering is the Plaza Pop-Up Program, which features installations and decorations at the plaza.
“When we asked Downtown SLO about what theme they wanted us to aim for in our installation, they gave us the theme of ‘Community and Local Love,’” said Regina Chapuis, president of the Rose Float team, who is also a computer engineering student. “We brought that theme to our team and brainstormed different float concepts that fit it, and then we discussed each concept we came up with and voted on them in a similar process to our Concept Contest in the normal float year. We eventually decided on a butterfly in a flowerpot because it gave us the opportunity to display interesting designs, mechanisms, and a variety of colors for floral material.”
The installation is roughly eight feet tall, with a flowerpot that is approximately seven feet in diameter. The initial framework was displayed on the plaza earlier this month, with signs describing the construction process. The team then took the piece back to the Rose Float lab to add color and details. On Saturday, May 22, the public can watch the team place flowers on the piece at the plaza.
The Rose Float team, a joint venture with students from Cal Poly Pomona, has been creating floats since its first entry in the 1949 Tournament of Roses Parade. The floats are seen internationally on New Year’s Day during the parade in Pasadena.
This year’s parade was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, club activity on campus was prohibited as part of campus safety precautions. But the university recently allowed the Rose Float team to return to work.
“Our team has been away from the lab for quite some time, so there was a renewed drive and enthusiasm to have something tangible to work on once we got permission from the university to return to lab with our new COVID safety rules,” Chapuis said. “We’re also happy to be working on a local project that will be on display in SLO. We hope that Cal Poly students who see our installation and are interested in what we do reach out and get involved with building the Rose Float.”
In recent years, the Cal Poly Rose Float team has experienced some of its greatest success. But that momentum was halted by the pandemic.
The public art piece allowed them to continue creating and passing on their skills.
“The timing of this project is fantastic for the Rose Float Team,” D’acquisto said. “With many Leadership Team members set to graduate next month, this project is serving as a fantastic opportunity for these members to mentor the younger students on the team and pass along their knowledge in ways that they were unable to do last fall.”