Orlando Skyline Attractions Help Launch Roller Coaster Inside Art Museum
A one-person roller coaster mingles with museum patrons thanks to Orlando-based Skyline Attractions, which designed the ride that runs through an EJ Hill art exhibit.
“As far as we know, this is the first functional, rideable roller coaster in a museum,” said Chris Gray, Vice President of Skyline.
The ride has been installed at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art — MASS MoCA, for short — and will operate during Hill’s “Brake Run Helix,” which debuts at the museum in North Adams, Massachusetts, this weekend.
The artist “has been fascinated by roller coasters all his life,” says Gray. Hill’s sculptures, paintings and photographs share space with the carousel.
The sculptures “sort of play on the form and function of roller coasters and amusement parks,” says curator Alexandra Foradas. “So they kind of work in the material vocabulary of the backyard roller coaster, using things that you might find either in the extra wood bin, or in your backyard, or at your local hardware store. “
The ride and its sole passenger take off from the mezzanine floor of the museum’s largest gallery, emerging from behind a two-tier stage curtain and descending to ground-level maneuvers.
“Once you push the coaster in, it’s like any other coaster; it works by gravity. And basically the wheel system is like any other conventional roller coaster wheel system, you know, it spins and moves,” says Gray. “It’s basically meant to look like a backyard roller coaster, although it’s high tech roller coaster stuff.”
The passenger leaves the carousel on a stage on the floor of the gallery.
“For the people who participate, it’s like they’re center stage. They are artists who play in collaboration with the roller coaster, which EJ considers an artist in itself,” says Foradas. “The roller coasters themselves are called ‘Brava!’ — an allusion to what one might shout at a female performer, in particular, after a big performance.
Museum visitors are isolated from the track when it runs once an hour, reservation required.
“As a roller coaster it’s quite small, but as an art installation it’s very high drama,” says Foradas.
Hill’s experience also includes stints as an endurance-based performance artist, Foradas says.
“He’s been doing installations and art and performance, a kind of meditation on a roller coaster, for a long time,” she says.
In Venice, he built a wooden roller coaster track.
“He would spend days walking on this track during the exhibit, with his body as it were instead of a roller coaster cart,” Foradas explains.
He also had a spectacular driving element request at the MASS MoCA: the rails of the new coaster are hot pink.
“The artist wants to paint the world pink,” says Gray. “So it’s been one of his primary colors in all of his paintings and structures and has been for years.”
For Hill, pink is a color associated with flowers and femininity, says Foradas.
“Next to the roller coaster, we have an installation of new paintings created by EJ as well as sculptures,” she says. “These paintings all have a pink background or pink background. And on top of that there’s kind of the geometries of roller coaster tracks and scaffolding and pink flowers, mostly roses.
The track pieces were built at Cornerstone Manufacturing in DeBary, then shipped — not yet pink — to Great Coasters International, a manufacturer in Pennsylvania, where they were riveted together. Then came the installment at the museum, located in the northeast corner of Massachusetts.
“Brake Run Helix” is scheduled to be at MASS MoCA for 18 months. While displaying Hill’s artistic skills, it may also be a commercial showcase for Skyline. The company has developed a seamless rail, which is used in the museum piece.
“It was something we had been thinking about for a very long time – how to create a track that we don’t need to have solders on,” Gray says. “Ultimately, the idea came down to that if we bend our tabs right and design it in a very unique way, we could probably rivet everything together.”
Benefits include faster installation and inspection times, reduced labor costs, and smoother rides. Great Coasters first used it on White Lightning, a coaster at the Fun Spot location near International Drive. The company has since tried it on a curve on the Predator ride at Six Flags Darien Lake in New York and on a drop on a rollercoaster at Michigan’s Adventure in Muskegon.
“It has the potential to really revolutionize the way the entertainment industry builds roller coaster tracks,” says Gray.