Math Trails – Rickey
MATH, SCIENCE AND GEORGE RICKEY'S WORK
A Family Walk
A self-guided learning tour connecting math
and science with the kinetic sculptures of
South Bend native George Rickey
START at the southeast corner of Jefferson and
Michigan, and go north. There are five sculptures in this walk:
- SE corner of Michigan and Jefferson (Two
Rectangles Horizontal Jointed Gyratory)
- NW corner of Michigan and Jefferson (Two
Planes Vertical Horizontal IV)
- SW corner of Michigan and Colfax (Four L's
- Jon R. Hunt Plaza, outside the Morris
(Annular Eclipse V)
Then head south to:
- SW corner of Michigan and Washington
Then take Washington east to:
- South Bend Museum of Art's rotunda entrance
George Rickey, Two Rectangles Horizontal Jointed Gyratory, 1994,
stainless steel. Southeast corner of Michigan and Jefferson.
- Watch the two rectangles for several
minutes. How likely is it for one of
the rectangles to point at a right
angle from the other rectangle? How
likely is it for one of the rectangles
to form a straight line with the other
rectangle? How likely is it for one of
the rectangles to point straight down
at the ground?
- What are some of the questions you
have about the sculpture? Which of
them do you think a scientist could
- John is sure that electricity makes the
sculpture move, but Alyssa thinks that
it's powered by wind. How can they
decide who's right?
- What would be some positive aspects
of using an electric motor to power
the sculpture instead of the wind?
What would be some negatives?
George Rickey, Two Planes Vertical Horizontal IV, 1974, stainless
steel. Northwest corner of Michigan and Jefferson.
- Suppose that the dimensions of the
rectangular solid forming one of the
planes are 79" x 70" x 2". What is the
surface area of the solid? Volume?
- Look at the location of the pivot point
for each plane in the sculpture. For each
plane, estimate the ratio of the amount
of the plane above the pivot point to
the amount of the plane below the
- Do you think people could have made
this sculpture 1,000 years ago? Why or
why not? What aspects do you think
would have been the hardest? The
- What kinds of things did Rickey need
to know about balances and weights
to make this sculpture? What other
science concepts would he have
needed to be aware of?
- Time yourself to see how long it takes
to walk from Two Rectangles Horizontal
Jointed Gyratory to Two Planes Vertical
Horizontal IV. How long should it take to
walk from Two Planes Vertical Horizontal
IV to Breaking Column? When many
people think of speed, they think of
miles per hour. What might be a better
way to measure your speed now?
Express your speed in blocks per hour.
George Rickey, Four L's Excentric II, 1978-1990, stainless
steel. Southwest corner of Michigan and Colfax.
- Are any of the four L's congruent to
- Are any of the four L's similar to each
- Sketch the four L's in the configuration
where they are confined to a single
plane. What motions would you need to
perform to move on of the four L's onto
its congruent partner?
- How does gravity affect this sculpture
when it is still? When it is moving?
- This sculpture can be used to illustrate
all four dimensions. Find a part of this
sculpture that is zero dimensional. Find
other aspects that are one dimensional,
two dimensional, and three dimensional.
In what sense is this sculpture four
dimensional? (Hint: Think about time as
the fourth dimension.)
George Rickey, Annular Eclipse V, 2000, stainless steel.
Jon R. Hunt Plaza, Morris Performing Arts Center
- Estimate the diameter of one of the
- Using your estimated diameter, compute
the circumference of the circle.
- If the diameter of each circle is
represented by d, and the length of
the line between the point of rotation
and the edge of the circle is s, write an
expression for the widest span that the
sculpture can achieve from left to right.
Write an expression for the narrowest
span the sculpture achieves.
- What problems might Rickey have had
getting the sculpture to move in the
- Over short distances, wind travels in
a straight line. How is it pushing the
sculpture in a circle? What piece of the
sculpture is responsible for this?
- How are each of the following a part of
- heat energy
- wind energy
- energy of motion
George Rickey, Breaking Column, 1989, stainless steel
Southeast corner of Michigan and Washington.
- Measure the width of the base of this
sculpture in inches. Measure the same
length in centimeters. Do you need
more inches or centimeters to equal the
width? Which units allow you to measure
more accurately? If you measured to the
nearest sixteenth of an inch, would your
measurement be more or less accurate
compared to measuring to the nearest
- Use an indirect measuring technique to
estimate the height of the column when
it is vertically aligned.
- How far can the tip of the top piece
move? How far could it move if the bot-
tom piece were bolted into place?
- If the wind blew only on the second
piece from the top, would the rest of the
sculpture still move? How? What if only
the third piece got wind?
George Rickey, Chevron Theme, 1990, stainless steel.
Outside of front rotunda, South Bend Museum of Art.
- Suppose x represents one length of the
shorter bars, and y represents the length
of the longer bars. How wide and tall is
the W in terms of x and y?
- What shape is each bar in this piece?
- Can you see any right angles in the
sculpture? Can you see any acute angles
And obtuse angles?
- Do you see any complimentary or
supplementary angles in this sculpture?
How do you know?
- What is the sum of the interior angles of
one of the W shapes?
- If the wind suddenly stopped moving,
would the sculpture suddenly stop, too?
How long would it take to stop moving?
In what directions would it move
until it settled down? Once it reaches
equilibrium and stops moving, what
would get it moving again?
South Bend 2009–10
A year-long collaborative celebration of internationally
renowned artist and South Bend native George Rickey.
- Public Art: Five of Rickey's large, mesmerizing
kinetic sculptures line downtown South Bend's
Michigan Street throug,/h Sept. 2010
- Major Exhibition: South Bend Museum of
Art hosts Arc of Development, a major Rickey
exhibition featuring some 100 paintings,
drawings, and garden-scale sculptures through
Jan. 10, 2010
- Archives: Notre Dame's Snite Museum of Art,
home of the George Rickey Sculpture Archive,
has 20 Rickey sculptures on exhibit, hosted a
George Rickey symposium and published a
catalog of the Archive in Sept. 2009
- Educational Outreach: University physics
and mathematics faculty are collaborating with
area teachers to develop tools that use Rickey's
work to explore the connections between art,
science, math, and life
For more information, visit
For related science activities and additional information, see NISMEC's webpage at http://rickeysculptures.net/
Innovation: George Rickey Kinetic Sculpture is a collaboration among
the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, the South Bend Museum
of Art, Notre Dame's Snite Museum of Art, the Estate of George Rickey,
the George Rickey Foundation, and 1st Source Bank, with assistance
from the City of South Bend.
All art by George Rickey is a copyright of the Estate of George
Rickey/George Rickey Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.