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A six-month festival inspired by the 75th birthday of Colonel Guion Stewart Bluford, Jr., a pioneering NASA astronaut, Philadelphia native, and the first African-American in space. Col. Bluford launched his career as a NASA astronaut in August 1979 and, four years later, became the first African American in space, participating in four Space Shuttle flights between 1983 and 1992. Though a series of arts initiatives, signature performances, and educational projects, audiences of all ages were inspired to learn more about Bluford’s legacy, to take greater interest in space exploration and its core subjects of math and science, and to embody in their everyday lives daring ambition to launch, explore and discover.
Presented by The Mann Center and NEWorks Productions
(PHOTO CREDIT: Jordan August)
The Franklin Institute
Free Library of Philadelphia
GLA Charter School
History Making Production
KIPP DuBois Academy
Our Mother of Sorrows
Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz
The Philadelphia Orchestra
PNC Arts Alive
Saturday, August 19
A FREE community and family day at Philadelphia's Mann Center. On this day, the Mann campus was transformed into a space-themed park with space-inspired face painting, hands-on science experiments, global performances, roving life-sized Star Wars characters, and a free community screening of the Golden Globe®-winning and Academy Award®-nominated film, HIDDEN FIGURES.
Tuesday, July 25
The Philadelphia Orchestra performed a mixed program of space-themed and space-inspired music by Haydn, Bernstein, Holst and John Williams. The concert was highlighted with the world premiere of Nolan Williams, Jr.’s Hold Fast to Dreams, a commissioned work honoring the legacy of Col. Guion Bluford, composed for orchestra, choir, soloists, and spoken word, and narrated by Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer and Planetarium Director for The Franklin Institute.
Wednesday, July 12 - Friday, August 4
A mixed-media art exhibition mounted at Philadelphia's City Hall featuring works by scholar artists from three partner schools: Global Leadership Academy, Universal Bluford Charter School, and Overbrook High School. Curated in tribute to Colonel Guion Bluford, Jr., a pioneering NASA astronaut, Philadelphia native, and the first African American in space.
Tuesday, June 6 - Wednesday, June 7
Curated musical performances at The Franklin Institute Fels Planetarium featuring the Clef Club Ambassadors Big Band and Philadelphia Performing Arts: A String Theory Charter School Concert Choir. Each performance featured curated musical sets synced with breathtaking visuals that immersed attending students in an out-of-this-world experience!
Wednesday, May 3 - Thursday, May 4
An in-school assembly that featured Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer and Planetarium Director for The Franklin Institute, as guest speaker and the performance of "Flight," a commissioned festival dance work by The Rock School for Dance Education, which celebrated the themes of ambitious exploration and discovery.
Friday, April 28
Star Party was the largest star party in the Philadelphia region, as attendees were engaged in continuous, hands-on telescopic observing all evening. The evening was punctuated by special musical performances featuring scholar artists of Global Leadership Academy and KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy. Presented in partnership with The Franklin Institute at Global Leadership Academy.
On Tuesday, July 25, 2017, The Philadelphia Orchestra performed the world premiere of Hold Fast To Dreams, Nolan's choral/orchestral fantasy. The performance featured Soprano Leah Hawkins; Baritone Frank Mitchell; the Philadelphia Community Mass Choir (Jay Fluellen, choir master); and narrator. Dr. Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer at The Franklin Institute. The work—dubbed "soaring... lovely... dreamily upbeat" by Peter Dobrin, classical music critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer—was composed in honor of Colonel Guion Bluford, Jr. (pictured), first African American NASA astronaut in space, and the many unsung African American pioneers of the American space program. Commissioned by the Mann Center. Click here to read the full review.
Bank of America, The Anne M. and Phillip H. Glatfelter, III Family Foundation, Cigna, Independence Blue Cross, The Lenfest Foundation, Louis N. Cassett Foundation, PWC, Republic Bank, TD Bank, UHS, USLI, and Wells Fargo
This project was also supported, in part, by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Nolan also produced the New Frontiers Back-to-School Youth Rally as a Kennedy Center Millennium Stage program on Monday, August 21, 2017 featuring Step Afrika, Washington Performing Arts' Children of the Gospel, youth from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, and Split This Rock youth poets. The program was preceded by science events engaging students on The Kennedy Center Terrace in observance of the Great American Solar Eclipse.
Copyright © 2021, Nolan Williams, Jr.
All Rights Reserved.
COVER PHOTO CREDIT: Marvin Joseph