Nicole Passonno Stott signs autographs for children at the Dunedin Fine Art Center.
Photo by AMY HECKLER
The Temple of Flying Silver Severed Monkey was one of the children’s favorite exhibits at the art center.
DUNEDIN – “Blast-Off: The Final Frontier” at the Dunedin Fine Art Center drew hundreds of children to experience the center’s four new exhibits and meet local astronaut Nicole Passonno Stott.
The opening on Saturday, Sept 8, proved to be a huge success.
“We can’t get them out of here,” said Carol Nevins, pointing to her 4-year-old grandson sporting an astronaut’s helmet and strapping plastic oxygen tanks across his tiny back.
Exhibits titled Intergalactic, Beam Me Up, My Favorite Martian and Blast Off offered hands-on activities, games and art presentations. The free event was co-presented by the Kiwanis Club of Dunedin who served up hot dogs to hungry visitors.
Entering the main exhibit, visitors experienced a sense of being in outer space complemented with stars, lunar landscapes, black holes and subdued light. Space-inspired music by the Bones South trombone group added to the atmosphere.
One of the favorite exhibits among the children was the Temple of Flying Silver Severed Monkey: a huge alien-like box that the children could crawl into and experience near darkness. When asked what it was like inside, voices responded, “It’s dark,” and “It’s smelly.”
The Beam Me Up exhibit features photography by Stephen Hillerbrand and Mary Magsamen offering contemporary interpretations of parenthood and family. My Favorite Martian features individual artwork focused on the theme “My Portrait as an Alien.” Intergalactic is a mixed-media presentation from artists worldwide.
Starting the day off, Stott presented first, second and third place awards for the space-themed Blast-Off exhibits. The featured artwork included sculptures and paintings from children ages 6 to 14 who participated in the center’s Sizzlin’ Summer Art Camp. Represented were students from 27 public and private elementary and middle schools.
Visitors lined up to get an autograph from Stott, a NASA astronaut and resident of Clearwater. Waiting her turn, Savannah Hilterbrand, 10, her eyes glinting with excitement gushed, “She’s a real astronaut. She really went into space.”
Stott, clad in her blue NASA jumpsuit, said she enjoyed the day meeting the kids.
“I was really impressed with the art center,” she said.
Stott joined NASA in 1988. Serving as a space engineer, she performed missions on the Space Shuttle Discovery and the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2009 logging 91 days in space.
DFAC Executive Director Ken Hannon said the theme for the annual Kid’s Fest changes each year. Last year they featured a circus-based exhibit. The goal of the DFAC is to “stimulate awareness and appreciation of the arts through changing exhibitions … that can strengthen interpretive ability and interactive creativity for both children and adults.”
The art center opened in 1974 and is privately funded by memberships, sponsorships and endowments.
The exhibits Beam Me Up, My Favorite Martian and Blast Off will run through Oct. 14. Intergalactic will run through Dec. 21.
The Dunedin Fine Art Center is at 1143 Michigan Blvd., Dunedin. Call 298-DFAC.