FORT COLLINS, CO – Starry-eyed artist has new meaning for more than a dozen young Albuquerque, N.M., students who attended the inaugural Night Skies Arts Academy, sponsored by the National Park Service and Global Explorers.
“I was so struck by the night skies on this trip” participant Alejandro Sandoval said. “I never knew about all of the constellations. I also got inspired by the Milky Way. This has inspired me to learn more about astronomy and taking night skies photos across the world.”
Sandoval and the other students, ages 13 to 16, were immersed in a comprehensive night skies project last month and are developing art projects that express their experiences in the field.
“These artists discovered what we hope to share with all Americans – that special national park experiences are often found close to home,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “As we approach the National Park Service centennial in 2016, partnerships with organizations like Global Explorers and creative programs like the Night Sky Arts Academy are helping us connect to a new generation of Americans.”
The eight-day academy adventure focused on discovery and exploration of night sky resources through the lens of artistic expression. With the star-filled skies above Canyon de Chelly National Park, Navajo National Monument and the San Juan River as their inspiration, students created celestial-themed art while they learned about the natural and cultural significance of the night sky.
The student artists were introduced to telescopes and astrophotography and spent an overnight at a Navajo homestead in Canyon de Chelly. They also attended evening and sunrise programs with a National Park Service ranger of Navajo decent.
The artists also took part in a service project, weeding cornfields and mending willow-branch fences for their homestead host in Canyon de Chelly. They capped off the academy with a three-day raft trip on the San Juan River.
A number of students said the most powerful aspects of their trip included observing the pristine night sky and Milky Way for the first time, and learning first hand from Canyon de Chelly residents about the natural and cultural significance of the night sky.
The students will show their night skies artwork during a public art show this fall in Albuquerque.
The National Park Service Natural Sounds & Night Skies Division and Global Explorers are educating a diverse group of youth and educators nationwide in the stewardship and understanding of soundscapes and starry night skies. Through educational activities in classrooms, over the Internet, and on expeditions around the world, they inspire an appreciation of natural and cultural resources, a connection to the natural world, and a commitment to environmental stewardship.
About Global Explorers: Global Explorers, a program of No Barriers USA, is a nonprofit organization based in Fort Collins, Colorado, whose mission is to inspire responsible global citizenship by providing life-changing travel experiences for students and educators of all abilities and backgrounds.
For more information: The National Park Service and Global Explorers work together to promote appreciation of natural and cultural soundscapes and dark night skies.
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at www.nps.gov, on Facebook , Twitter , and YouTube www.youtube.com/nationalparkservice.