ASTRAL CHALLENGER - ANTELOPE VALLEY PRESS

MONUMENTAL LANDMARK

LANCASTER - A 20-foot-tall stainless-steel sculpture resembling a rocket is going up in the 3-month-old roundabout at Avenue L and Challenger Way, commemorating the destruction 30 years ago of space shuttle Challenger and the deaths of its crew.

Created by Los Angeles artist Shana Mabari, "Astral Challenger" is fabricated from 2-inch-square stainless steel rods, surrounded at the top and bottom by cobalt blue acrylic panels. LED lights encased in the sculpture's 19-foot diameter concrete pad will illuminate the acrylic panels from dusk until dawn.

"It is conceived as a monumental landmark to the city in honor and commemoration of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger flight," Mabari wrote of the sculpture. "Eight vibrant blue acrylic panels pay tribute to the seven lives lost in the disaster, plus one to collectively represent the family members and friends who still grieve."

Once called 10th Street East, Challenger Way was renamed by the Lancaster City Council within a week of the Jan. 28, 1986, explosion. In the 1970s and 1980s, when there were many fewer buildings along it, the street was the route of space shuttles hauled from the assembly plant at Air Force Plant 42 to Edwards Air Force Base, where they were lifted onto a NASA 747 for the flights to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The roundabout project cost in total $1,304,875, of which the art piece cost $100,000, city spokeswoman Nicole Allen said. It was chosen through a Lancaster Museum & Public Art Foundation search.

Some money for it was raised through the foundation, but Allen said Tuesday she did not know what that amount was.

The sculpture is the first piece of public art commissioned by the city, not including Lancaster Boulevard murals honoring famous test pilots. It is proposed to be the first under a new Art and Public Places policy, which is part of a master cultural plan expected to be presented May 24 to the City Council.

A Los Angeles native, Mabari says she is part of the "Light and Space" artistic movement that originated in California in the 1960s. Mabari's sculptural installation "Diametros Petals" - mirrored and translucent discs 3 to 4 feet in diameter - was displayed in December and January on the rooftop of the Lancaster Museum of Art & History.

Mabari's "Illumetric" - three diamond-, cube- and rectangle-shaped sculptures - was created for the city of West Hollywood's "Art on the Outside" public art program.

Opening in February, the roundabout was installed at Challenger Way and Avenue L because the intersection had 44 collisions since 2004, including three that resulted in fatalities and two resulting in severe injuries, city officials said. Three-quarters of the cost was funded via Caltrans grants.

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