Flagstaff Arts Council, Metropolis of Flagstaff: Longtime Champions of Darkish Skies – Flagstaff Enterprise & On-line Information | Northern Arizona Native Newspaper – Flagstaff Enterprise Information

The Flagstaff Arts Council (FAC) and City of Flagstaff are often unsung heroes, quietly and continuously supporting and promoting the values that are important to the community and the region.

This month, especially during the pandemic and its devastating impact on arts and science funding, Flagstaff Business News salutes the leadership of the Flagstaff Arts Council and the City of Flagstaff for their enduring support of Flagstaff’s dark starry skies.

“Dark skies seem very much emblematic of Flagstaff and the institutions that we support,” said FAC Executive Director Jonathan Stone. “The community has expressed a desire to retain the beauty of the night sky as one of the things we value, which also provides a sense of place.”

This summer, as many festivals and celebrations have been canceled as a result of COVID-19 health concerns and a ban on large gatherings, FAC and the city worked to establish additional support for local arts and science non-profit organizations.

“When we began the conversation with the city about that funding, they were willing to look at some of the longer-term public art projects and change the schedule to free up resources to be allocated to the COVID-19 relief fund,” said Stone.

As a result, some $100,000 was injected into the community’s arts and science resources. The Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition was one of 22 organizations that received the additional support. “That, to me, demonstrates the City of Flagstaff’s extreme interest in  preserving our non-profit community,” said Stone.

Flagstaff’s clear, dark skies will be on full display in September and October as the Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition expands its traditional three-day Flagstaff Star Party to include a six-week Celebration of the Night. Adjusting for anticipated social distancing requirements, organizers are planning: online dark skies presentations with support from partners including the Coconino Astronomical Society, Lowell Observatory, U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Arizona University, APS and the Flagstaff Festival of Science; a real-time remote telescope viewing of the night sky hosted and narrated by a local astronomer and dark-sky artist in coordination with Lowell Observatory on Thursday, Sept. 17; an online performance by the Flagstaff Dark Skies Quartet; and small live interpretive tours of constellations.

“Earlier this year, the Coalition completed a Strategic Planning Document with community input that helps us identify goals and activities to promote awareness, appreciation and preservation of our dark skies and maintain Flagstaff’s position as a world leader in dark sky protection and lighting standards,” said Chris Luginbuhl, retired U.S. Naval Observatory astronomer and FDSC member. “We reached out to the Flagstaff Arts Council staff for ideas about events that the community can get excited about in which residents and visitors come together for an evening of food, learning and celebration of the night sky.”

In addition, input from the Discover Flagstaff team, the marketing arm for the city, contributed to the proposal of a new signature event, “Sips and Savors Under the Stars.”

“Events in the long-run are more sustainable and exciting when they align with community values, when people feel they are getting a great experience when supporting and engaging with something that’s important to them,” said Stone. “Flagstaff ultimately comes out to support a number of events. Dinner under the stars is the best of both worlds: we can get together and eat, and love the night sky.”

For these reasons and more, Flagstaff Business News raises its goblet in honor of the Flagstaff Arts Council and City of Flagstaff as Flagstaff Dark Skies Stars! FBN

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