Airdrie Observatory Mural Project
Legacy of a stars visit
A permanent legacy of the visit to Airdrie of Charlie Duke is the fantastic space mural at Airdrie Observatory.
The crowning glory of the space mural is a portrait of Charlie Duke, Walk with Destiny’s first Apollo visitor, painted in honour of the upcoming visit by art student Allister Gardener. The portrait sits alongside a tribute to the three astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire and an image of the iconic Buzz Aldrin photo taken on the moon by Neil Armstrong, both by art student Sonya Elder.
Situated above Airdrie Library, a C(s) listed building, Airdrie Observatory is one of only four municipal public observatories in the United Kingdom. Owned by North Lanarkshire Council it is run by CultureNL in partnership with Airdrie Astronomical Association.
The mural was a result of a collaborative project between AAA, Airdrie Library and Glasgow Metropolitan College. At a liaison meeting at Airdrie library between Airdrie Astronomical Association and CultureNL staff in 2009, Aileen Malone, secretary of AAA suggested inviting art students to paint directly on to the walls as part of a community project. The library gave her the go ahead and Aileen approached Scott Brady, Head of the Fine Art Dept at Glasgow Metropolitan College who was very supportive of the idea.
Research and Planning
Artist Allister Gardener with his Portrait of Charlie Duke
As the students had no previous knowledge of space matters, Aileen went to college and spoke to them about everything from famous astronomers, constellations, categories of galaxies, rocketry, telescopes and the space race. She also provided the students with books and magazines on astronomy and showed them the space club's fascinating globes of Mars, Venus and the Constellations.
As well as researching the history of murals, the students were required to collect a large volume of visual information on their chosen topic; they also had to fill four A3 sketchbooks and put together written and visual research on at least two artists who had explored an aspect of the theme.
Fine Art tutor Margaret Ker brought the project to life with her passionate enthusiasm and embarked on the mural design as part of Two Dimensional Practice Unit with first year HND Fine Art students.
Margaret, Aileen and some of the Art students in the Observatory
Putting it all together
After six long months of research, sketchbook work and practise, the thirteen students arrived onsite in March 2010, completing the mural on 24th March 2010 right on time for the official observatory re-opening ceremony.
As well as the Apollo tributes, the mural features the solar system, galaxies, the space shuttle as well as saluting Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space and fellow Russian space traveller Liaika the dog.
HMI, during an annual visit to the college deemed the Mural Project to be a 'Sector Leading Innovative Practice', an exemplar of excellent, innovative good practice.
'The Airdrie Observatory project was considered an example of excellence that we could work to publish'
Observatory Re-Opening Night
On Thursday 25th March 2010 the mural was revealed by students Anna and Liam at a the re-dedication of Airdrie Observatory and telescope following the installation of a new dome and refurbishment works.
Anna also painted a portrait of Copernicus which she donated to Airdrie Observatory.
Margaret Ker, “Airdrie Astronomical Association has provided the HND Fine Art Studentsof Glasgow Metropolitan College with a wonderful opportunity to collaborate in a ‘live project’. The College is always very keen to engage students in activities that will benefit the wider community whilst enhancing their skills in their chosen field of study. This was an exciting challenge for the students. It allowed them to work as a team and to develop and demonstrate theirpainting skills.” The students have learned so much through this project and it has encouraged them to see themselves as the professional artists that they aspire to be in the very near future.”
Artists, Anna and Liam, officially opening the Mural and refurbished Observatory
Artist, Anna, presenting her portrait of Copernicus to Aileen Malone
Charlie Duke signed his portrait during his visit.
All three Walk with Destiny Apollo visitors admired the mural.
Al Wordan at the Airdrie Observatory Mural during his visit in 2011
Dick Gordon was very impressed with the students work during his visit in 2012
Charlie Duke signing his portrait when he visited the Observatory in 2010