A series of constellates are planned in Wichita now to prepare for and celebrate a celestial event taking place in 1,000 years.
A series of posts, events and flyers have been circulating on Facebook in recent weeks promoting a cryptic event called “Jump!Star.”
“Jump!Star” is sponsored by a number of arts organizations in Kansas – including Harvester Arts, Chamber Music at the Barn and the Symphony in the Flint Hills.
Not to mention it’s funded by a stout $150,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts last spring.
But what exactly is it?
“Jump!Star” is an attempt to create a festival of sorts to celebrate the shifting of Earth’s North Star. It will culminate in a custom-composed, celestial-themed symphony at the Symphony in the Flint Hills in 2019, accompanied by large paper sculptures (a la Japanese lanterns) and costumed dancers in a parade-like setting.
It’s a lot to take in, isn’t it?
That’s why its organizers are already planning for it, starting this month with a series of workshops – known as “constellates” in Jump!Star lingo.
“The culminating event is Summer 2019, but the art is now,” said George Ferrandi, a New York-based artist who is both creator and director of Jump!Star. “The emphasis is not only in the final product but on the process and the participation and the invention that’s happening now.”
So what’s all this about jumping stars, anyway?
Here’s the basic premise of the event:
Because of a “slight wobble” in the Earth’s rotation, the star we consider our due North Star changes every few millennia. This phenomenon is caused by what’s called axial precession.
Right now, our North Star is called Polaris.
But in 1,000 years there will be a new North Star, because of this wobble in the earth’s rotation.
That star is known as Gamma Cephei.
Since none of us will be alive at that time, the organizers of Jump!Star decided: Why not celebrate the shift to a new star now?
There are actually 12 “pole stars,” which at various points over a 26,000-year period can become our due North Star.
Ferrandi has created characters to represent each of those 12 stars based on how they’ve been regarded throughout history. She will be constructing paper sculptures of those characters – each about the size of a small car, though some will be up to 50 feet long.
Those lighted sculptures –which are being built in Kansas, New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania – will be on display at next year’s Symphony in the Flint Hills.
Later this year and in early 2019, there will be more workshops to consider future culture – including a series of time-related film screenings, presentations on how we might grow food in the future, and discussions about the science behind Jump!Star.
In a recent talk to art students at Wichita State University, Ferrandi said the project also aims to counter the perception that our future is entirely apocalyptic by considering the traditions of future civilizations.
Who’s going to be here?
There are a bevy of national artists coming to Wichita at various points to participate in the Jump!Star project.
Chief among them is Ferrandi, who first was introduced to Wichita in 2015 as one of Harvester Arts’ first-ever artists-in-residence.
Ferrandi worked in Japan for a summer as an NEA fellow with the Japan – U.S. Friendship Foundation, where she studied how to make traditional Japanese paper sculptures.
But the paper sculptures are just a part of the Jump!Star program, which Ferrandi refers to as a “social sculpture.”
A cadre of musicians have teamed up to write and perform a custom Jump!Star symphony – written by Jherek Bischoff, a noted modern composer who has scored Netflix specials “A Futile and Stupid Gesture,” “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp,” as well as other film and theatrical productions.
The final component of Jump!Star: choreography.
New York-based choreographer Alan Calpe is developing the movements, costumes and choreography that will accompany Jump!Star’s visual and musical pieces.
How did this come about?
Ferrandi said she has wanted to do this project for half a decade.
Her inspiration came from reading a copy of “The Stars: A New Way to See Them,” by “Curious George” author H. A. Rey.
“He invented a new way of mapping constellations that has become the way to map constellations, so I was inspired by that,” Ferrandi said. “I just started imagining how (the pole star shift) was going to be celebrated ... and then I got caught up right away in the logistics, like when would it be, who decides, is there a committee, is there a ribbon cutting?”
She pitched the idea to the artistic team at Harvester Arts “thinking this is my dream team,” she said.
“They said, ‘We’d love to do it, but we don’t have the money. Are you in a rush?’” Ferrandi said. “I was like, ‘I’ve got a thousand years.’”
Then, local grantwriter Connie Bonfy offered to assist with applying for an NEA grant for the project, which it was awarded last year.
The project won the NEA grant by promising to unite “rural neighbors and regional artists” with national guest artists to create this performance piece in an underserved area of the state, according to the organization.
Since then, Jump!Star has been partnering with a variety of local organizations – including Fisch Haus, Tallgrass Film Association, The Lux and others – to host “constellates” and spread the word about the project.
Ferrandi admits she doesn’t know exactly how it will turn out.
She’d prefer to let the people of Kansas decide what a festival to celebrate the changing of the North Star would look like, she said.
“I am excited about people inventing the final form that it takes and allowing that that will evolve,” she said. “Hypothetically, if this gets passed down through generations then the traditional Jump!Star recipes and the traditional Jump!Star dances would morph and mutate and evolve.”
For more information, visit www.jumpstar.love.
Jump!Star events this week
▪ 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 2 at Harvester Arts, 215 N. Washington: Workshop (“constellate”) to discuss “how to dress for celestial events.” Brainstorming on costumes and regalia for Jump!Star. People are asked to consider one time capsule-esque object that defines them as a person. Free.
▪ 1-5 p.m. Saturday, March 3 at McKnight Art Center – Wichita State University, 1845 Fairmount: Workshop (“constellate”) to create cyanotype prints of those objects that define us best as a person. Those cyanotypes will be featured in some way as part of the Jump!Star costumes. Free.
▪ 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 5 at Fisch Haus, 524 S. Commerce: Concert featuring the musicians on the Jump!Star team: Jee Young Sim, Mirah and Jherek Bischoff. They will be performing “out-of-the-ordinary chamber music,” along with the Wichita-based WC String Quartet, featuring Jenny Bowen, Rob Loren, Lillian Green and Susan Mayo. $20 suggested donation.
▪ 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 6 at Candela at The Lux, 120 E. 1st: Workshop (“constellate”) featuring dancers who will perform modern arrangements. People in attendance will be asked to isolate which movements could be part of a custom Jump!Star dance. Free.
▪ 6 p.m. Saturday, March 10 at Pioneer Bluffs Barn, 695 KS-177, Matfield Green: Second half of a workshop to design “the people’s dance” for Jump!Star. Free.