Visit from former Space Shuttle Astronaut, Jeffrey Hoffman

We were delighted to welcome former Space Shuttle astronaut Dr Jeffrey Hoffman to A’ the Airts on Friday 22nd July, when Crawick Multiverse designer, Charles Jencks, brought him up to Sanquhar to visit the Multiverse and our “Landscape of Waves” exhibition at Merz studio. Here is a recording of Dr Hoffman and Charles Jencks in the Merz, discussing a wide range of issues about science and the arts.

This is a taster for a series of public talks and conversations at A’ the Airts which will run throughout August and September. These are being planned to accompany the exhibition at the Merz, which runs until the 5th September. The first of these will be a conversation on 11 August at 7pm between Charles Jencks and local landscaper and gardener Alistair Clark “How to Build a Multiverse – And What it Means”.  Full details of all these talks are just being finalised, but we hope that the guest speakers will also include John Brown (Astronomer Royal for Scotland), historical geographer Professor David Munro and Alex Rigg, artistic director of Oceanallover. See our Whats On Page for updates.

Extract from a Press Release about his visit:

A former Space Shuttle astronaut called for humanity to take better care of “this precious Earth” while visiting an arts centre and gallery in Sanquhar and the Crawick Multiverse.
Jeffrey Hoffman, who flew five NASA missions, has been in Scotland to fulfill a long-held ambition to see the Crawick Multiverse, the Garden of Cosmic Speculation and other works by the celebrated artist and architect Charles Jencks.
He also went to see Landscape of Waves, an exhibition by Mr Jencks and Alex Rigg, hosted by A’ the Airts at the Merz Gallery, Sanquhar, and delivered a talk for the Crichton Foundation in Dumfries.
Dr Hoffman, who is credited with having mended and saved the Hubble Telescope, enjoyed his time in the area and said: "It was such a pleasure to visit Sanquhar and A' the Airts. It was so impressive to see what's going on there in the arts, and to learn about Sanquhar knitting."
Dr Hoffman, was also a professional astronomer and is helping develop a scientific experiment that will be flown to Mars in 2020, has deep concerns about the future.
He said: “We are altering our world in negative ways. Climate change, sea level rise, war, disease, hunger and massive political and social upheaval are having dire consequences. Going into space gave me a feeling of intense awe and a sense of the preciousness of Earth – we have to take better care of it.”
Dr Hoffman toured the exhibition and Crawick Multiverse with Mr Jencks. Crawick Multiverse is a 55-acre world-class artland and visitor attraction where Mr Jencks has moulded the landscape to create huge representations of cosmic forces and features, including the Milky Way and the neighbouring galaxy of Andromeda.
He recently unveiled a mosaic, at the heart of a large amphitheatre, called Solar Flare - Earth Shield depicting “the dance of life and death” between the Sun and Earth, with the planet’s magnetic field preventing life from being destroyed by radiation.
Dr Hoffman said: “Charles has an astonishing ability to take our knowledge about the universe, and the forces that drive it, and present them in earth and stone in a way that everyone can experience them.
“He has represented whole galaxies and shown how they interact. He takes these vast concepts and presents them in a way that’s a truly mind expanding experience. Coming to Crawick is something I have long dreamed about, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint.”
Mr Jencks echoed Dr Hoffman’s concerns about the world and the need for collaboration to create a brighter future.
He said: “Our world is such a marvellous place, and so fragile and small set against the vastness of the cosmos.
“Jeff’s journeys into space have shown what extraordinary things we can achieve as a species – but we are putting so much at risk when we should be collaborating to build a better world.
“As a boy Jeff dreamed of becoming an astronaut – before space flight was even possible – yet he went on to do just that. Right now we should be inspiring the next generation to dream like that and then to make sure the opportunities are there to achieve the extraordinary.”
Commenting on Dr Hoffman’s desire to come to Dumfries and Galloway he added: “The fact that we are now getting visits from astronauts shows that interest in Crawick, and in Upper Nithsdale, really is reaching people everywhere. This is a wonderful area and we are really committed to working with the local community to help it thrive.”
After Crawick, Dr Hoffman and Charles Jencks went to the exhibition in Sanquhar and the nearby A’ the Airts community arts centre.
Anne Foley, executive manager, said: “It was so exciting to have Dr Hoffman visit us here. It underlines how important the arts are becoming to our area.
“Centres like ours, the opening of the Crawick Multiverse, and the re-emergence of Sanquhar knitting are doing a great deal to focus attention on Upper Nithsdale and bringing us visitors from all round the world – including Japan and the USA.”
Landscape of Waves is a collaboration between Mr Jencks and Alex Rigg the Scottish-based multi-disciplinary artist and designer.
It features paintings and sculptures by Mr Jencks, some entirely new and others reflecting the original artistic and intellectual development of Crawick Multiverse.

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