Future Fusionists- Space Art Integration Project

Since 1996, the Doña Ana Arts Council (DAAC) and the Las Cruces Public Schools have been members of the Kennedy Center Partners in Education (KCPE). The Las Cruces KCPE Team focuses on Arts Integration, an approach to teaching that leads students to demonstrate understanding through an art form.

This year, the team recognized the potential for creating educational activities based on the Las Cruces Space Festival’s virtual art show, Dawn of Discovery. The exhibition, which includes 90 pieces of artwork from 46 international and local artists reflecting the excitement of space exploration, was the jumping-off point for the 2021 Dawn of Discovery Arts Integration Project. The artists’ work reflects a working knowledge of the solar system, space exploration, art history, and New Mexico iconography, making it and the artists incredible resources.

In addition to the Arts Council and the Las Cruces Public Schools, the following organizations joined the project: Spaceport America, Challenger Learning Center of Las Cruces, Doña Ana Community College, Cruces Creatives, New Mexico State University Art Museum, and the Las Cruces Museum System.

The Arts Integration Project was implemented during April and May 2021 to support the Monte Vista Elementary School Third Grade 4th Quarter Solar System unit and Social Studies. The team developed a series of enrichment and art activities that supplemented what the teachers were doing as well as demonstrating arts integration. The Challenger Learning Center created an introductory video about the Hubble Space Telescope. The Las Cruces Space Festival showed the students a European Space Agency video titled Our Place in Space that zoomed out into the solar system from Las Cruces, giving students a view of the vastness of space. In addition to videos, the students Zoomed with ex-astronaut Nicole Stott, now an artist, and Linda Heath, a New Mexico artist currently featured in the Dawn of Discovery virtual exhibition.

Stott is a champion of arts integration, combining her experience as an astronaut with art to educate and inspire young people. She is the founder of the Space for Art Foundation, a charity that focuses on healing through art and space-themed art projects and promoting the “awe and wonder of space exploration.”

Heath, a New Mexico artist, combines the beauty of celestial features, such as the Orion Nebula and Spiral Galaxy from Hubble Space Telescope images, as backdrops to some of New Mexico’s best-known symbols. The viewer will see Kokopelli flute players, Apache Mountain Spirit Dancers, petroglyphs, and the Santuario Mission Church in her work. Most of her paintings include the Golden Ratio, reflecting her mathematical background and connection to classical art. For this reason, the team chose to integrate her work into the final art project where students created Fusionist art similar to Heath’s work on actual Hubble Telescope images.

The students also created New Mexico symbol inspired Retablos on cardboard, spent time analyzing the Dawn of Discovery virtual art show, and the team threw in a game of Space Trivia at the end of the project.

“I do not have enough words to express what a wonderful opportunity this has been for our 3rd graders,” stated Brenda Sorensen, the third-grade teacher who worked with the KCPE team.” I hope this program will continue and be offered throughout the district so more kids can grow from this experience,” she added.

“Encouraging students to develop an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through art is exciting,” said Karen Conley, Program Manager at DAAC and the KCPE Team Leader. “Both art and science require inquiry, creativity, and exploration to understand the world around us. The Dawn of Discovery Art Show is a conduit for science and an incredible resource at the local level. These are the kind of opportunities educators and artists are looking to tap into because they demonstrate the connection between art and science,” she added.

The KCPE team aims to expand this project to other organizations and develop similar projects for all subjects in the curriculum and different