Artists celebrate 20th anniversary of Green Bank Telescope

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Artwork by Hillary Diane Andales
Artwork by Belle Beckner
Artwork by Charlotte Persinger

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

In August, the Green Bank Observatory will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the Green Bank Telescope.
As part of that celebration, the GBO held an art contest last spring/early summer. Participants were asked to produce an artist’s rendering of the GBT or the observations made using the instrument.

The contest closed in June and GBO public relations specialist Jill Malusky said the artistic vision of all the entrants was wonderful.

“We wanted folks to come up with art, celebrating the telescope itself and also its scientific discoveries and observations,” Malusky said. “The whole vision for the project was just to get people excited about the GBT’s 20th anniversary.”

Although the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to visits to the observatory, Malusky said, luckily, the contest could continue online, and in the six week submission period, 40 individuals sent in hand-drawn and digital artwork.

Voting was also online, and the judges were those who viewed the posts on the GBO Facebook page.

“It was a really neat way,” Malusky said. “I’ve been involved in a lot of art contests over the years and voting happens by experts or by judges or by staff. Using social media as a tool was really neat, because the way likes are set up on Facebook, you can only like something once, so it’s really ethical and fair.”

There were three categories – Youth, Young Adult and Adult. Winners were 11-year-old Charlotte Persinger, 15-year-old Belle Beckner and 20-year-old Hillary Diane Andales.

Before the pandemic, the plan was to print, on a large scale, several submissions of artwork for a display – a plan that is merely on hold.

“We hope, when we do get to reopen, we will be displaying the artwork,” Malusky said. “So, fingers crossed, we will be doing that when we reopen and people can see it in person. We planned to have them displayed around Pocahontas County and even around the region, like at West Virginia University or Marshall University or down at Charlottesville, Virginia, at the NRAO.

“We couldn’t have been more pleased by the creativity and the interest,” she continued. “When you do something – especially when you do it in a new way – you kind of say, ‘Is it going to work?’ and we were really happy with the participation and with what we received. We were glad that it was a success.”

While the observatory is still closed to the public due to the pandemic, Malusky said the scientific and educational staff has been working at home and on-site, and still plan to celebrate the GBT’s anniversary in August.

“We will likely have some sort of Zoom or live event online that folks can sign-up for to hear stories or share,” she said. “Those plans are still being worked out, but I would say if people are interested, just keep an eye on Green Bank Observatory’s social media. We will be announcing those virtual events for people to tune in to or participate in.”

The observatory has also provided multiple virtual tours and live events with scientists, sharing them on Facebook and the GBO’s YouTube channel.

“If anybody is doing science education from home – having to learn from home – they can go to the Green Bank Observatory website or social media and find a lot of great resources,” Malusky said. “There will be more virtual tours and more things coming just to help people.”

And, while the science center and other facilities are closed to the public, the trails are open, so locals and visitors can still walk around the site, as long as they observe social distancing.

To see the gallery of all submissions to the contest, visit Green Bank Observatory on Facebook.