Voyages: Chapter 5 Tickets on Sale Now

Baltimore artist Schaun Champion to explore themes of interconnectedness at July 18 event

Tickets are now on sale for the fifth installation of Voyages, the National Aquarium's after-hours event series for adults that explores the intersections of conservation, science and art. On July 18, 2024, guests will experience an immersive evening from the mind of featured artist Schaun Champion, which will incorporate photography, projection, floral installation and a curated soundscape interspersed throughout the National Aquarium's galleries.

"Schaun's work for Voyages: Chapter 5 invites you to embark on a journey through interconnectedness and to revel in the profound bond between humanity and the natural world," shares National Aquarium's Community Programs Manager Sarah Doccolo.

Interactive elements such as hopscotch areas and a philosophical scavenger hunt will create a playful world, with additional performances by Baltimore's WombWork Productions, to encourage guests to activate their sense of wonder and curiosity.

A lens-based artist and instructor renowned for her unique approach to art, Champion will delve into the complex web of interconnectedness that binds humanity to the natural world.

Local food for the event will include The Empanada Lady, Neopol Smokery, Taharka Brothers Ice Cream, and Crust by Mack, with a bar menu curated by Charm City Meadworks. The immersive installation will be followed by an electric after-party featuring renowned jazz musician Brandon Woody and his ensemble, UPENDO.

Champion's fascination with aquatic life was ignited during childhood visits to the National Aquarium. These core childhood memories, combined with a feeling of being called to water, recently led her back to the Aquarium. Returning to her childhood inspiration, Champion aims to evoke a profound connection with the natural world through her lens-based creations in this chapter of Voyages.

"When thinking about this project, I started paying closer attention to patterns and how animals try to communicate with us," Champion shared. "The way humans move around in the world affects every other living being, which then affects us. This is interconnectedness."

As part of her residency, Champion first met with Aquarium experts who pointed her toward Mallows Bay National Marine Sanctuary, an underwater graveyard of 100 World War I-era ships nestled in the Potomac River. National Aquarium General Curator Jack Cover and Conservation Policy Manager Maggie Ostdahl encouraged Champion to draw inspiration for her theme of interconnectedness from the Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay.

The industrial relics within the site have been reclaimed by nature, illustrating a fascinating loop of human-to-wildlife interaction.

"The ships stick out of the water like bones, and they're saying, 'There's history here. There's a story here. This is a sacred place worth protecting,'" Champion elaborated. "We never get to the place of progress and protection if we don't understand what happened before."

During her research, Champion also connected with Angelo Villagomez, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and this chapter's featured scientist. Angelo was born on the island of Saipan in the Mariana Islands, located in the western Pacific Ocean.

His work focuses on Indigenous-led conservation, utilizing Western scientific methods and Indigenous knowledge and values. Together, they were able to explore these themes while also discussing the lack of diversity in the voices speaking out for ecological change and justice—and the need for more people to access the places where conservation decisions are made.

"Humans somehow think that we're not a part of the planet in the same way as every other complex being living here. Maybe we see ourselves as stewards, but not truly a part of it," Champion expressed. "We do this thing that only humans do where we assign beings or inanimate objects feelings that humans would feel while simultaneously assuming non-humans don't have feelings, rituals, patterns and lessons they teach their young. This is where learning to see interconnection can help us. As we age, we develop a 'callous' or a hard exterior around our minds that stops our curiosity and desire to learn, and I want my work to break through it. This will be a safe place for guests to crack open and let the world come in."

Voyages: Chapter 5 will take place on July 18, 2024, from 6 to 11 p.m.

For further information, explore a preview of Voyages: Chapter 5.

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