Inspired by the Eclipse: A Creative Approach to Celestial Phenomena in Rural Indiana


On April 8, 2024, a segment of Indiana was graced with over four minutes of total solar eclipse. There is perhaps no greater sense of community than what we experienced when tens of thousands of Hoosiers looked to the sky during the brief moments of the moon eclipsing the sun.

For several months leading up to the eclipse, the Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement's eclipse liaison Hannah Jones spearheaded IU’s rural solar eclipse initiative. This effort, with funding support from the Simons Foundation's In the Path of Totality initiative, provided a planning toolkit, community funding, and student and faculty partnerships for arts and cultural events that celebrated the total solar eclipse across rural Indiana.

Eclipse Microgrant Program

Thirty organizations were awarded microgrants with the goal of fostering community engagement with the eclipse through arts and culture events. Recipients kicked off their initiatives on November 10, 2023, and wrapped up on April 26, 2024. These microgrants sparked a variety of eclipse events and activities, from art classes to a written book to festivals throughout rural Indiana communities.

Art Sanctuary, Martinsville, IN | Elizabeth Kuebel, Senior | Major: Environmental Management | View larger
Athens Art Gallery, Crawfordsville, IN | Mansi Kadam, First-Year Graduate Student | Major: Human-Computer Interaction | View larger
Blue River Community Foundation, Shelbyville, IN | Emma Domke, Junior | Major: Human Biology and Neuroscience | View larger
City of Loogootee, IN | Trina Le, Freshman | Major: Sociology | View larger
English Civic Club, English, IN | Maleeha Mahbub, Freshman | Major: Environmental Management and Law and Public Policy | View larger
John Hay Center, Salem, IN | Alex Hao, Senior | Major: Public Policy Analysis, Finance, and Business Analytics | View larger
Knox County Association for Remarkable Citizens (KCARC), Vincennes, IN | Nala Crumbaugh, Sophomore | Major: Social Work | View larger
Main Street of Hope, Hope, IN | Bre Woods, Senior | Major: Nursing and Healthcare Management | View larger
Martin County Tourism Council, Shoals, IN | Aniyah Kelliehan | Major: Political Science and Sociology | View larger  
Monroe Lake, Bloomington, IN | Brooke Martoccia, Senior | Major: Environmental Management, Minors: Outdoor Recreation, Parks, Human Ecology, and Nonprofit Management | View larger
Owen County Chamber of Commerce, Spencer, IN | Ellie Albin, Senior | Major: Journalism, Minor: Environmental and Sustainability Studies | View larger
Tulip Trestle Community Restoration Inc., Bloomfield, IN | Camila Cantu, Junior | Major: Human Biology and Community Health | View larger
Vincennes Knox Eclipse, Vincennes, IN | Shayley Stumpf, Senior | Major: Marketing | View larger
Zionsville Eclipse, Zionsville, IN | Kate Espejo, Freshman | Major: Accounting and Business Analytics | View larger
Historic Connersville Incorporated, Connersville, IN | Ashleigh Fender, Senior | Major: Business Management BSB and Leading Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Organizations (LDEI) BSB | View larger

Rural Eclipse Scholars

Leading up to the eclipse, 15 IU students were awarded $1,000 scholarships as part of the Rural Eclipse Scholars program. As Eclipse Scholars, students each partnered with a rural community organization to help plan and support local eclipse events focused on arts and culture. The experience allowed students to hone their academic and professional skills in a real-world setting while supporting capacity in rural communities.

The program culminated with the Eclipse Symposium on April 29, where scholars presented posters about their community partnership work and the outcomes of their projects.

Film Student Documentary Series

The Eclipse Symposium also showcased a series of compelling student documentaries, each focusing on a rural microgrant recipient community. Through creative visual storytelling, the short films illustrated the eclipse’s inspiring cultural impact on rural communities.

Eclipse Jam

Dr. Gabriel Lubell and Jacobs School of Music dancers Gabriel Weiner and Gates Northrup hosted Eclipse Jam events in Odon and Spencer, Indiana, combining music, dancing, and lectures to explore the solar eclipse. 

The performance was choreographed by Weiner through inspiration from the solar eclipse, with the two dancers acting as the sun and the moon during the phases of solar totality. This artistic approach to scientific phenomena was a hit with those who attended the celebration.

One attendee wrote, “I was THRILLED at how well they integrated music and science. Beautifully done!”

Another said, “Having this event at Spencer Pride was amazing. Giving Spencer an opportunity to participate in this series of eclipse-related events was wonderful. We are proud to have been a part of it!”

Eclipse Jam in Spencer, Indiana. Jeni Waters

I was THRILLED at how well they integrated music and science. Beautifully done!

The Hidden Sun

Brick Street Poetry, Inc. hosted The Hidden Sun on April 5, an eclipse-themed arts showcase highlighting local talent in Vincennes. Haikus inspired by the solar event were read by each participating poet and displayed at the event. In addition, pianist Yujun Cao from the IU Bloomington Jacobs School of Music worked alongside composer Marjorie Rusche to perform ‘ECLIPSE,’ a three-movement piano solo that reflected the emotional turbulence of the astronomical event.

“There are some very interesting concepts in the piece that I really liked. And, of course, the idea of the cosmic event really fascinates me,” said Cao.

The pianist worked directly with Rusche, who composed the piece over ten years ago.

“I think it’s a good thing to try and get people to think beyond their own personal concerns and think about something cosmic that affects all of us,” said Rusche.

Cyanotyping, Shadow Puppetry, and Campus Engagement

Cyanotyping and Shadow Puppetry

To celebrate the exciting celestial dynamics of solar eclipses, Esra Ibil, Vivek Vellanki, and Mia Domino from the IU School of Education hosted an art workshop in Jasper, Indiana, on the intricacies of light through shadow puppetry and cyanotyping. 

First Thursdays

The Center for Rural Engagement hosted a table at IU Bloomington's April First Thursdays festival to share information about upcoming eclipse activities in rural Indiana communities, and offered space-themed tote bag decoration and cyanotyping projects.

Science Fest

The Center for Rural Engagement hosted its first-ever table at IU’s annual Science Fest to help spread information about upcoming eclipse activities in rural areas, and once again set up the cyanotyping process to teach children more about the connections between science and art.

You could be the richest person in the world, but you don’t really own an eclipse. You can’t really control an eclipse. It’s something that belongs to everyone.

Fernando Santos, First Thursdays attendee

Rural Eclipse Showcase

On the day of the total eclipse, the Center for Rural Engagement hosted the Rural Eclipse Showcase featuring an exhibition to highlight all 30 microgrant awardees and the community events they held in connection with the solar eclipse.

The showcase also featured Eclipse Jam ballet dancers, and outside of Maxwell Hall, center staff handed out eclipse viewers and water while promoting artistic engagement by offering the community an opportunity to create space-themed chalk art.

40communities partnered in events and activities

96students supported rural eclipse initiatives

30K+Hoosiers and visitors attended partnering events

Want to see more? Check out our photo gallery from events and activities related to the eclipse initiative.

Visit the gallery