The Moab Arts and Recreation Center, in partnership with the City of Moab, is hosting a dark-skies-themed art show—“Ode to the Stars”—throughout the month of April.
“It’s been a really interesting project in that you get to see what ‘dark skies’ means to all the different artists,” said Kelley McInerney, arts and special events director at the MARC. “Some of them have focused on the beauty of the landscape and the skies, and then others have brought attention to when that’s missing and when there’s light pollution.”
In 2016, a study published in Science Advances estimated that 99% of the U.S. population lives under light-polluted skies, and found that the Milky Way is hidden from more than one-third of humanity. Light pollution is destroying our ability to see the stars.
But there are still places in the world to stargaze, including Moab. Moab is home to multiple International Dark Sky Parks including Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Dead Horse Point State Park, designated by the International Dark-Sky Association, which works to protect night skies by spreading awareness of light pollution.
“Dark skies aren’t just about effective and efficient lighting, it’s about adding beauty back into our night sky,” said Richard Lory, an AmeriCorps Vista for Moab’s sustainability department. “It’s about allowing for the Milky Way, and different nebula, to be more visible from the city.”
In 2019, the City of Moab and Grand County passed new lighting ordinances with the goal of creating lighting practices that “will minimize light pollution, glare, light overflow, and sky glow in Moab and the region without compromising your safety and the safety of others,” according to the city. Residents and businesses have five years from the passage of the ordinance to come into compliance with the new code—the deadline is about two years away.
McInerney said the idea for the show came from International Dark Sky Week, starting on the night of the new moon, April 22. She and Mila Dunbar-Irwin, the City of Moab’s sustainability director, were looking for a way to tie together art and sustainability, and dark skies seemed like the perfect opportunity.
There will be 20 artists with work on display, McInerney said. There’s a variety of mediums, including paintings, photographs, sculptures, and jewelry, from artists with a variety of skill levels.
“It’ll be fun to see all of them hung together—all the different mediums and subjects,” she said.
She said the show is meant to first, display art, and second, create awareness of the county’s desire to become an official dark sky community and the importance of doing so. Lory pointed out that people have been stargazing for millennia, and that light pollution affects not only our ability to see stars but also the nocturnal cycles of Moab’s flora and fauna.
“Dark skies bring the universe back to us,” Lory said, “and break the dichotomy that we’ve created between humanity and nature. It’s about showing us that we are part of a larger ecosystem and a lagrer universe.”
In addition to the lighting ordinance, the city offers an outdoor lighting retrofit assistance program to full-time Moab City and Grand County residents. The program allows residents to receive up to $200 for dark-sky-friendly outdoor lighting fixtures.
The city and county also run the “Friends of the Milky Way” program for businesses, in partnership with the Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks. The program offers a free exterior lighting assessment to businesses, and if businesses convert their outdoor lighting to be dark-sky compliant, they’re officially labeled as a “Friend of the Milky Way.”
There will be a reception for the “Ode to the Stars” show on April 9 during the April Art Walk, starting at 5 p.m. at the MARC (111 E. 100 N.). The art pieces will also be on display at the MARC all month.
What: “Ode to the Stars” art show
When: April 9 at 5 p.m.
Where: Moab Arts and Recreation Center (111 E. 100 N.)