Space For Us: Star Party
Installation view of ArtNow: The Soul Is a Wanderer
Space For Us: Star Party
“You will have to navigate by your mother’s voice, renew the song she is singing.
Fresh courage glimmers from planets.
And lights the map printed with the blood of history, a map you will have to know by your intention, by the language of suns.”
— Joy Harjo, A Map to the Next World, 2000
For centuries, the stars have functioned as guiding beacons, markers in the sky, directors of universes, makers of cosmos, rulers of planets and more. From ancient Greek and Indigenous investigations to the first recorded telescope in the Netherlands, the stars above hold all of human nature under one sky, one planet, one home.
A catalyst for connection, the stars give glimmers of hope, of futures, of possibilities, a sentiment that runs deeply through ArtNow: The Soul is a Wanderer. When planning programs around this investigative exhibition, Curator of Public Programs Marie Casimir and ArtNow curator Lindsay Aveilhé took notes from the twinkling lights surrounding us each night. Cue upcoming Space For Us: Star Party.
“Star Party is a program that was recommended by curator Lindsay Aveilhé — to work with Cheyenne Smith, who is a local NASA ambassador and has been organizing star parties in Tulsa for a while now. We love Smith’s idea behind Space For Us and wanted to support it here at Oklahoma Contemporary, as we always want to promote inclusivity … but also curiosity.”
Thursday’s free program invites visitors to the North Lawn from 8-10 p.m. to experience the cosmos and learn about the fascinating universe we live in. The event is in collaboration with Space For Us founder Cheyenne Smith, whose mission is to provide accessible space exploration to all.
“Space For Us was born out of my personal experience growing up wanting to be an astronomer, but subconsciously telling myself the field wasn’t meant for me and that I had to be an Albert Einstein to pursue it,” Smith says. “Not once did I see anyone who looked like me at the college I was at, pursuing astronomy. Not even at the star parties I frequented. Later on, as I started getting on social media more, I found other people with similar stories as mine.”
“Therefore, Space For Us aims to make space sciences and industry more visible and accessible to underrepresented communities. Space is for everyone, and no one should be left out of this new space age of discovery and exploration. No one should be turned away. We all share the same histories, and we need to share the same future.”
That empowerment of the next generation of artists, creators, innovators and makers parallels the intention behind ArtNow and the Joy Harjo poem from which the exhibition derives its theme.
“Both concepts have a similar purpose, which is trying to amplify the landscapes that surround us,” Smith says. “In many ways, both are a means to try to embody, interpret, understand and express the sacredness of nature. Like many of the works in the exhibition convey ancestry and these different elements of nature, all ties back to our primordial connection to the universe.”
“We are made of the same stuff as first generational stars… that’s an ancestry bloodline for you. We are literally the landscape, the universe trying to discover itself and asking questions about itself.”
This ancient lineage is one of the many facets to be explored Thursday night.
“We’ve always had access to the stars, especially through Indigenous ways of knowing how the stars guide us,” Casimir says. “Whether that be physical maps of following the stars or in terms of astrology or storytelling as part of creation stories. The stars are also connected to futuristic ways of thinking, like Joy’s poem, and what our potential futures could look like beyond us and beyond our planet. It’s a nice way of tying in works in the gallery to something that uses our entire campus and invites people to come, to gather, to be together and to stare at the cosmos.”
All are welcome this Thursday, July 20, to learn from experienced astronomers, take part in a sky scavenger hunt, engage in meaningful conversations and enjoy refreshments and music. Smith plans to expand the program even more — beyond borders, beyond walls — allowing visitors to permanently capture a piece of the sky.
“I’ll be doing a live printing of the 'image of the night' so visitors can take home a piece of the cosmos with them,” Smith says. “I’m excited for people to just look through the telescopes and hopefully see them get as excited about it.”
The evening will also include space sonification excerpted from When the Stars Came Down to Earth, a video by Crystal Z Campbell and Nathan Young. Walk-ins encouraged as space permits. Star Party is in partnership with Lunar Sooners and OKC Astronomy Club.
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