Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Spaceport America needs great art

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Space culture could be a great deal for us all.
My autumn vacation included admiring the NASA art exhibit at the Las Cruces Museum of Art and a visit to Spaceport America.
I’ll be writing about my adventures soon and will tell you how you can book a behind-the-scenes tour yourself. (If you just can’t wait, contact Follow the Sun Tours at (866) 428-4786 or www.ftstours.com.)
But in the meantime, I’d like to alert area artists — and the Spaceport America powers-that-be — to some major potential art ops.
Richard Branson already inaugurated his exciting new terminal with some performance art of his own (including rappelling down the Jetson-ish building himself).
But there’s a wealth of opportunity in the blank canvas that is Spaceport America, which seemed to me to be calling — nay, screaming — for some artistic expression. And we have the perfect, internationally-renowned artists nearby.
There’s a water tank just waiting for maestro Tony Pennock’s special touch.
Stephen Hansen’s sculptures are in the Smithsonian and embassies, airports, museums and galleries around the world. He’s a spaceport natural.
Ever since I was in charge of art programs for Florida’s then-brand-new Palm Beach International Airport, I’ve been yearning to festoon a runway with poetry and profound quotes. I couldn’t talk the stuffy Palm Beach folks into that, but with all the famed poets, playwrights and authors in our area and what I’d think would be less demanding regulations for sporadic space flights, couldn’t we send our civilian astronauts off with some uplifting bons mots? And maybe some runway masterpieces by artist Bob Diven, whose repertory includes award-winning chalk masterpieces, if you insist on something less permanent.
How about a concert series? We had Harvard glee clubs, Yale Whiffenpoofs, Eastman School of Music chamber music ensembles and renowned jazz bands and gospel choirs flying in for the day to entertain passengers in Florida.
With Branson’s Virgin Music connections, I’ll bet we could lure some top names in for Spaceport music fests, with or without launches on the agenda.
I’m usually a proponent of public art competitions that are open to all, but in this case, I’d like to see our tax investment (New Mexico’s in general, and Sierra County’s and Doña Ana County’s in particular) acknowledged with a permanent and rotating art collection featuring regional artists in Spaceport America buildings and grounds.
With $90 million in reservations already booked for the first civilian flights, it’s clear that we will be attracting folks with lots of disposable income. If they can afford $200,000 for a quick space jaunt, surely they would could be in the market for some fine art souvenirs. And it wouldn’t be nice to have some of our top artists represented in a Spaceport gallery that might entice visitors to visit galleries in nearby Las Cruces, Mesilla, Truth or Consequences and Silver City?
I’d love to see a committee formed to explore the cultural possibilities of Spaceport. Between launches, it could be a very inspiring site for everything from music festivals to art exhibitions and maybe even an innovative play or two.
In the meantime, if you want examples of great ways space and art can partner up, see how world-renowned artists explore the final frontier in “NASA Art: 50 Years of Exploration,” running through Jan. 21 at the Las Cruces Museum of Art on the Downtown Mall. The Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit features works from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and National Air and Space Museum archives, including some scenes inspired by space exploration scenarios in our part of the world.
We’ve already hosted some intriguing scientific and educational symposiums in conjunction with the development of Spaceport America. I’d love to see New Mexico’s extraordinary cultural and arts organizations find expressive ways to fire imaginations and express our creative talents.
I still remember, as a small child, watching the first space launches and hearing my artist mom and poetic, aircraft engineer dad muse that it would be nice if we could send artistic astronauts into space to share their insights with us all.
This time, with the civilian wave, I think we should find ways for artistic souls to get in on the ground floor of the Spaceport to help inspire us all to keep looking up.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to www.lcsun-news.com and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

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