BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Thirty rural organizations across Indiana will receive funding to host arts and cultural events and programs connected to the 2024 solar eclipse, an event that will blanket parts of Indiana in total darkness on April 8.
With funding support from the Simons Foundation as part of its In the Path of Totality initiative, the Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement is leading IU’s rural solar eclipse initiative, providing staff support, resources and outreach for community activities that unite residents around the historic astronomical event. More than 80 organizations in communities with a population under 50,000 applied for $2,000 micro-grants, facilitated by Regional Opportunity Initiatives, to support the implementation of eclipse activities.
“Rural communities are implementing creative plans to connect residents and visitors as we all gather to witness this historic event,” said Kerry Thomson, executive director of the Center for Rural Engagement. “We look forward to collaborating with communities to bring these plans to fruition and strengthen local strategies that expand arts capacity.”
The path of totality of the April 8 solar eclipse will cover a segment of North America, including a large part of Indiana, in complete darkness for nearly 4 minutes as the moon shadows the sun. The next time Indiana falls in the path of totality of a solar eclipse will be 2099.
More than 1 million visitors are expected to flock to Indiana in the days leading up to April 8. Communities small and large could more than triple their population numbers during the event. To help local leaders and residents prepare, the Center for Rural Engagement published the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse Planning Toolkit. It features planning resources and safety information about viewing the eclipse, managing crowds and leveraging the eclipse to bolster community interest and capacity for arts and cultural events into the future.
While a solar eclipse is an event of scientific significance, such awe-inspiring moments have a profound impact on humanity and the sense of time, place and connection to each other and the universe. The Simons Foundation is supporting areas of the country that have fewer traditional science engagement opportunities than major metropolitan cities. Through partnerships with communities and organizations in the path of totality — such as science museums, arts organizations, cultural centers and local downtown districts — the Simons Foundation seeks to spark meaningful, lifelong relationships with science that extend beyond this eclipse.
“Few things evoke awe or a sense of connectedness like a total solar eclipse does,” said Ivvet Modinou, the Simons Foundation’s vice president of science, society and culture. “The Simons Foundation is thrilled to support organizations working to ensure that everyone has an unforgettable experience this April. Our hope is that this will lead to more opportunities for engagement with science long after the eclipse has passed through.”
Ideas submitted by rural Indiana communities were wide-ranging in their variety and creativity. For example:
- The Knox County Association for Remarkable Citizens plans to host an eclipse-viewing experience emphasizing community inclusivity for people with and without disabilities that will include a picnic, disability-friendly LightSound devices and an eclipse viewing tent.
- Spencer Pride Inc. of Owen County will host a performance themed around the total solar eclipse featuring four drag entertainers in downtown Spencer.
- The Indiana Forest Alliance will host a two-day event at Yellowwood State Forest, paying homage to the state’s beautiful and unique forest ecosystems with a time capsule dedication, live music, crafts, presentations, hikes and food.
A detailed list of the awardees and their planned events is available on the Center for Rural Engagement website. Counties that received micro-grant support include Bartholomew, Boone, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Fayette, Gibson, Greene, Henry, Huntington, Knox, Martin, Montgomery, Morgan, Owen, Randolph, Ripley, Shelby, Spencer, Union, Washington and Wayne.
For more information about the rural solar eclipse initiative and other rural engagement opportunities, visit rural.indiana.edu or contact Hannah Jones at email@example.com.