A Masterpiece of Art, Nature, and Time

A Masterpiece of Art, Nature, and Time

Did you know the Queen City has its own sundial? Betcha didn’t, because this version of the world’s oldest method of time-telling is brand new. And in this case, the sun won’t tell you the time until you – or someone – stands in for the dial.

This human sundial is the latest work of Springfield artist Christine Schilling. You’ve probably seen her art before, along historic Commercial Street. She specializes in mosaic art – pieces of glass and porcelain tile skillfully arranged to form a bigger picture. They’re peppered all over C-Street, from the sidewalk adjacent to Café Cusco’s patio to the alleys that connect the street with the parking areas to the south… they all tell a story.

Same for the sundial near the Botanical Center at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park, but this creation requires much more than artistically arranged tiles. Visitors stand on the part of the mosaic that corresponds to the current month, raise their hands to the sky, and watch as the sun casts a shadow to tell the current time. It requires a sunny day, of course. But even on a cloudy day, a visit to this unique artistic creation is a real experience.

This Ginkgo Sundial (shaped like the leaf of a Ginkgo tree, believed to be one of the oldest surviving tree species in the world) is located on the peninsula at the south side of the Springfield Botanical Gardens’ Drummond Lake. According to the Springfield Greene County Park Board’s website, the combination of the sundial and the Ginkgo tree symbolizes resilience and hope. Drs. George Heinz and Katie Hope Heinz funded the effort after noticing that the area adjacent to Drummond Lake seemed a little sparse. A sundial seemed like just the thing, and Schilling had just the imagination to help make it happen.

Construction was a few years in the making. Planning a project of this size took lots of time, effort and planning, not to mention cooperative weather conditions. Once the site was selected and painstakingly prepped, Schilling and a group of volunteers worked throughout the summer to glue the tiny pieces of Schilling’s design upside down onto sheets of mesh. The mesh was then turned upright — in perfect weather conditions — so that each piece could be carefully embedded and dried into concrete to form the colorful designs.

If you know Christine Schilling at all, you know she has a fierce dedication to her art, along with a sharp sense of humor. Her designs tend to weave history with whimsy… they tell stories that reflect both local flavor and the artist’s personality. She used fragments of broken dishes, bits of shattered Christmas ornaments, even pieces of wine bottles to form the design. If you look closely, you’ll find color and number patterns along with hidden messages and other treasures.

There’s more backstory here, and if you’re fortunate to run into Schilling, chat her up. She’ll be happy to fill you in. But so will Friends of the Garden volunteers and staffers at the Botanical Center. Take a trip to the sundial soon and bring the family along. Afterward, go in search of Schilling’s other mosaic inside the park. Springfield is blessed to have an artist with her passion, and a Park Board with benefactors willing to undertake a challenge that truly stands the test of time.

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