Ben founded Only One Sky® in 2014 after hearing the great Yo-Yo Ma speak in Aspen about the need for artists to find new ways of serving people - especially young people - as citizen artists. Ben already knew what he wanted to talk about. The environment had been the subject of his work for over 30 years. Looking out the plane window heading home Ben had a something of a vision. He imagined people all over the world looking up, connecting to the sky and reflecting on how it connects us all as one global family. And while they were doing so they were photographing it's dynamic changes and then together, all over the globe, posting their photos to an evolving on-line sky mosaic that was as beautiful and varied as the sky itself. He imagined this citizen art work would show how many people worldwide recognized the importance of climate and sky in their lives and knew it was crucial they come together across cultures and borders to solve the climate change crisis.
Ben asked his wife Judy Grimmer and friends Sascha Bopp and Chris Frye to help him flesh out the idea. The project sounded like a portal to something. But a portal to what? They decided to create an educational NFP called Only One Sky® and build an interactive educational platform called SkyDay® so artists could collaborate with scientists on imaginative educational initiatives and rigorous curriculum. The goal would be to connect people to all things sky in an inspiring, personal, imaginative and scientifically rigorous way and positively disrupt the climate change conversation. How could we inspire people to take a much greater interest in how our sky functions and what its vulnerabilities are? How could artists and scientists work together to move culture forward and encourage participants to think of themselves as part of a global family with a shared problem to solve? To guide these initiatives they created a SkyTeam - a team of distinguished artists and scientists charged with advising on the development of SkyDay initiatives. Astronaut and artist Nicole Stott and Northwestern University climate scientist Dr. Daniel Horton were the first to join and together they worked to define SkyDay's educational goals. Soon afterwards they were joined by leading atmospheric scientist and University of Illinois Professor Dr. Don Wuebbles, his colleague Dr. Anna Nesbitt and scientist, poet and lecturer in science communication Dr. Sam Illingworth.
Today SkyDay is a highly regarded educational platform and Sky Days - celebrations of climate and sky - are being held around the world at all times of year and especially around International Sky Day (on or around September 21). The first International Sky Day was September 21, 2017 with the inauguration of Sky Day Project - the project Ben had originally imagined in 2014. That first Sky Day schools and organizations worldwide took part. Ben, Nicole Stott and Daniel Horton were interviewed on WBEZ Chicago’s Worldview program (listen) and Chicago’s awesome Adler Planetarium hosted a beautiful three day installation of Sky Day Project over Sky Day weekend September 22 - 24, 2017.
Today Sky Day Project itself is growing fast with new sky photos arriving everyday and in 2018 Sky Day Project even went out of this world with an installation on the International Space Station! Check it out!