Reviving ‘Ecliptic’ at Rosa Parks Circle

The $2 million restoration project is underway.
Tripp Frey is working to restore "Ecliptic" at Rosa Parks Circle. Photo by Brian Kelly

The heart of downtown Grand Rapids is getting a makeover. “Ecliptic” at Rosa Parks Circle is getting a $2 million restoration that will increase the lifespan of the materials used in the art installation. Tripp Frey, chair of the Ecliptic at Rosa Parks Circle Conservancy, is working alongside the city of Grand Rapids to bring this piece of art back to life for Grand Rapids residents and visitors to enjoy.

Grand Rapids Magazine: When do you expect the restoration process to begin and end for “Ecliptic?”

Tripp Frey: Construction will begin as soon as the weather permits in the spring — hopefully this will occur around April 1. The project will take roughly three months to complete. Our goal is to have a re-dedication ceremony on Sept. 6, 20 years to the date that “Ecliptic” was dedicated.

GRM: What do you want this restored piece of art to do for the city and its residents?

TF: When “Ecliptic” at Rosa Parks Circle was dedicated nearly 20 years ago, it was estimated that roughly 200,000 people would use the park annually. Today, over 750,000 folks make their way through this park and piece of art. It has become, without a doubt, the heart and soul of the city. It is the town square where gatherings, protests, demonstrations, rallies and celebrations take place. It’s become a victim of its own success with all the use and is beginning to show some wear and tear. The Ecliptic at 20 campaign will provide funds for upgraded materials and give the park a refresh so that it remains in top-notch condition for decades to come.

“Today, over 750,000 folks make their way through this park and piece of art. It has become, without a doubt, the heart and soul of the city.”
Tripp Frey

GRM: Tell us about the vision for the future of this project.

TF: Our project is focused on upgrading materials — granite rings instead of cast concrete, new bathrooms, updated siding on the restroom/Zamboni building, etc. What many people don’t realize is that the entire park is also a world-class piece of art designed by Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam Memorial [in Washington, D.C.] among other high-profile pieces. It is our goal to enhance and preserve this piece of art through our project.

GRM: Tell us about the meaning of the art itself.

TF: The park and the art are essentially interchangeable since the entire space was designed by Maya Lin. Specifically, throughout “Ecliptic” one can find the three phases of water — liquid, vapor and ice. The lights under the ice skating rink represent the constellations above Grand Rapids in the night sky on Jan. 1, 2000. Most importantly, the design effectively draws visitors into the park making it a welcoming and comforting location. Maya Lin has a special talent for designing spaces that are not intimidating — a skill many would argue is what makes the park so special.

GRM: How do you envision the future of Grand Rapids alongside this new, renovated circle?

TF: Public spaces have and will continue to play a vital role in our society and it’s our hope that “Ecliptic” at Rosa Parks Circle will continue to be the hub and heartbeat of this city for many moons to come.

This story can be found in the February 2021 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox each month, subscribe here

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