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Art and Astrophysics: using art, dance and storytelling to engage audiences with science

Over 95,000 people have engaged with the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute’s research through nearly 500 events of innovative, science-infused, cultural activities presented at museums, cultural centres and art festivals across Lancashire, Cumbria and Gibraltar.

Using differing artistic approaches, researchers led by Professor Robert Walsh, Dr Jo Pledger and Dr Megan Argo have given audiences an enhanced understanding of Astronomy and stimulated interest in science through art installations, dance and storytelling. In turn, this has also created new and inspiring forms of artistic expression and cultural output.

This combination of science and new cultural and artistic expressions produced SUN, a touring art installation which depicts the sun as a seven-metre diameter sphere suspended four metres above the ground into which is projected NASA movie images of our nearest star. A further development was the online dance workshop Into our Skies. Through movements and dance-related activities, participants described and interpreted a particular aspect of astronomy. Another project, We Share the Same Moon, uses the narratives of folktales, myths and legends linked to the sun, moon and stars to introduce scientific concepts and explain the science behind the stories. Merging the concepts of storytelling, art and dance has engaged local communities and school students with astrophysics and succeeded in breaking down gender stereotypes relating to both STEM subjects and art.

The active-learning techniques in each project helped school pupils explore concepts in astronomy in an interactive, physical manner that overcomes preconceptions of the subject as a dry, academic topic. To date, these projects have successfully obtained competitive peer-reviewed funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Arts Council England, the Royal Astronomical Society and the International Astronomical Union.

Research Team

Professor Robert W. Walsh

Dr Joanne Pledger (nee Bibby)

Dr Megan Argo