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The same sky: ‘Museum of the Moon’ exhibition encourages community engagement

Luke Jerram’s “Museum of the Moon” installation arrives in Durham Oct. 31, after having toured numerous locations around the world since 2016.
Luke Jerram’s “Museum of the Moon” installation arrives in Durham Oct. 31, after having toured numerous locations around the world since 2016.

One small step for man, one giant inflatable moon balloon for Durham. From Oct. 31 to Nov. 3, Luke Jerram’s “Museum of the Moon” exhibition will illuminate CCB Plaza as part of Bull Moon Rising, a community event celebrating the intersection of history, science and art. The event is part of Durham 150, the 150th anniversary of the city’s incorporation, as well as the statewide Lift Off NC: Apollo + Beyond campaign, aimed at exposing newer generations to the space-based programs fifty years after Apollo 11.

“From the beginning of human history, the moon has acted as a ‘cultural mirror’ to our beliefs, understanding and ways of seeing,” Jerram wrote in an e-mail. “Different cultures around the world have their own … relationships to the moon. ‘Museum of the Moon’ allows us to observe and contemplate cultural similarities and differences around the world.”

“Museum of the Moon” has traversed the globe since 2016, with installations everywhere from Jerram’s native United Kingdom to Dubai to China, but Bull Moon Rising will mark its first endeavor to North Carolina.

According to Jerram, although his inflatable moon itself stays the same everywhere it goes, each host community’s culture makes the experience unique every time. Bull Moon Rising will feature a reading of the classic children’s book “Goodnight Moon” from Mayor Steve Schewel, an Illumination Ceremony hosted by local performers Vivica C. Coxx, Stormie Daie and Naomi Dix and performances from local art groups such as Blackspace Music Cypher, Batalá Durham and Durham Medical Orchestra.

“We’re very excited to bring [“Museum of the Moon”] to Durham to help community engagement,” said Rebecca Brown, the manager of Durham’s Cultural & Public Art Program. Brown said the program was looking forward to “getting people to the downtown area to celebrate everything that the city has to offer.”

The installation of the inflatable moon, which measures roughly 23 feet in diameter, is a feat executed by a traveling team, organized by Jerram, that assists with the rigging and shipping in collaboration with local fabricators, steelworkers and engineers. Ultimately, the exhibit will be suspended over the city’s Major the Bull statue and will be internally lit 24 hours a day, allowing for lunar-inspired community gatherings such as all-day moonbathing and morning moon yoga with Community Power Yoga on Sunday.

The image used for the inflatable moon is 120dpi NASA lunar imagery, which was chosen in efforts to make the artwork “as authentic and realistic as possible,” according to Jerram.

“For most people, this will be their most intimate, personal and closest encounter they will ever have with the Moon,” Jerram wrote.

“Museum of the Moon” is a demonstration of an intersection between art and science, which Brown said played an instrumental role in the decision to bring the exhibit to Durham, highlighting both the creative and intellectual spirit of the city.

“We thought it would be a great way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the city, as well as the 50th anniversary of the moon landing,” Brown said, “to combine the wonder of both science and art for the community.” 

Although the exhibition will be the first of its kind in Durham, in its previous iterations, it has proven to be an effective catalyst for public interaction. According to Jerram, the ubiquity of the Moon affords viewers a “communal shared experience” across all ages and cultures. 

“This is a great project to help activate a space to create community conversations and create natural interactions between residents for something that’s very joyous and happy,” Brown said. “We’re really excited to present it and hopefully see those happen.” 

Aside from the 21+ Bull Moon Ball — a Nov. 1 fundraising gala at Unscripted Hotel — all events are free and open to all ages. Proceeds from the gala will benefit Durham’s Museum of Life and Science and Keep Durham Beautiful, non-profit organizations that are helping to put on the event alongside Austin Lawrence Partners and the Cultural & Public Art Program. 

“We’re really hoping that people will engage and interact with our partners, and that we create community connections that last longer than a four-day presentation that spark people’s interest in being more involved in the arts [in Durham],” Brown said. “I hope that view of the moon a little closer to home will remind people of their sense of wonder. Hopefully, it’ll spark some magic.”

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