Art and science often find themselves joining together to express and interpret reality. For Michael Crane, director of the Schneider Museum of Art, "these disciplines are not polar opposites, but rather parallel investigations that are able to complement one another, with each adding perspective to the search for big answers." Those attending the new art and astronomy exhibit at the Schneider will be able to witness firsthand how the two disciplines complement each other.

Art and science often find themselves joining together to express and interpret reality. For Michael Crane, director of the Schneider Museum of Art, "these disciplines are not polar opposites, but rather parallel investigations that are able to complement one another, with each adding perspective to the search for big answers." Those attending the new art and astronomy exhibit at the Schneider will be able to witness firsthand how the two disciplines complement each other.

The exhibit, "Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies," opens with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 15, at the gallery on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland. The reception is free and open to the public. The exhibit will run through Thursday, March 26.

Featured along with the exhibit will be education programs, panel discussions, music and lectures. There will be a public lecture at 3 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, in the Meese Auditorium in the SOU Art Building featuring Texas-based amateur astronomer and retired NASA project manager Dennis Webb and astronomy writer Jeff Kanipe. Webb and Kanipe are co-authors of "The Arp Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies: A Chronicle and Observer's Guide" (Willmann-Bell, 2006; arpatlas.com). The book was the inspiration for the show in the museum. The talk will be followed by light refreshments in the museum and viewing of the exhibition.

The exhibit and the book explore the strange galactic star systems observed by astronomer Halton C. Arp in the 1960s. His compendium of 338 galaxies revealed an assortment of bizarre structures produced when galaxies collide or interact with each other, or are driven by violent star formation and black holes. On display in the museum will be 30 full-color images of some of the most unusual galaxies known, along with astronomical-themed works from some of the country's leading artists.

Kanipe says in a press release, "Arp actually applied both artistic and scientific standards when he was compiling his atlas. Like good art, these galaxies blur the boundary between what is considered 'normal' and 'not normal.' "

Webb notes that such images encourage us to look deeper into nature. "A collection of peculiar things that challenges the orthodox view of the world intrigues artists and scientists alike," he says in a press release. "After 40 years, Arp's Atlas is a visual masterpiece that captures this special 'territory.' The recent Hubble space telescope images take us deeper into these strange things."

Complementing the science side of the show are works from 15 American artists who also look to the heavens for inspiration and insight: Lita Albuquerque, Shawn Brixey, Vija Celmins, Russell Crotty, Peter de Lory, J. Brett Grill, John Hess, Michiko Itatani, Christina Licata, Sara Mast, Michael C. McMillen, Trevor Paglen, Anna Von Mertens, June Wayne and Tom Yanke.

"We are mixing a little art and a little science in this project." says Crane. "It's the wonder and awe of those images which stimulated me to track down the Arps, the book and the authors, then to the show and then to the artists. I find so many people looking up and looking out. I'm finding that it is such an innate human activity to look up at the sky and wonder what's up there, what we are a part of."

The exhibit is part of the International Year of Astronomy, a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture, sponsored by the United Nations and the International Astronomical Union. The theme for the year is "The Universe: Yours to Discover." The United States International Year of Astronomy program will seek to offer "an engaging astronomy experience to every person in the country, to nurture existing partnerships, and to build new connections to sustain public interest in astronomy."

The year 2009 also happens to be the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo Galilei. On Galileo's birthday, Feb. 15, there will be a screening of the new PBS documentary, "400 Years of the Telescope" at ScienceWorks museum in Ashland. The film will be shown at the Schneider on March 13. The film's producer, Kris Koenig of Interstellar Studios in California, will introduce the film and lead a discussion afterward. A viewing of the exhibit will follow.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays; and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. Admission is a suggested donation of $3. See sou.edu/sma or call 552-6245.