Astronaut Art

Jasmine Brogden ~ Staff Writer

“The Academy Center of the Arts are highly honored to reintroduce the Lynchburg community to Leland Melvin, astronaut and former NFL player,” said Director of Visual Arts Ted Batt.

Due to February being Black History Month, the organization decided that Melvin should be featured in their Art Talks event. His exhibit titled “On Earth, In Space, From Space” will take place Friday, Feb. 10 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the academy.

Batt said that the real goal of the event was to have this incredible, unique man in a space with his work. He stated that he considers Melvin a very compelling speaker, with an equally inspiring story.

Melvin is a native of Lynchburg. In fact, he attended Heritage High School. He has had a few ups and downs in life.

Before Melvin ascended to space and began his career as an astronaut, he was drafted to play professional ball in the late ‘80s. He later received a hamstring injury that prevented him from continuing his NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions.

An unfortunate event occurred during his time as a NASA astronaut. In the middle of a routine exercise, he suddenly became deaf. Eventually he gained some of his hearing back with the aid of surgery, but flight surgeons declared him unfit to fly in space at that particular time.

Despite his trials, Melvin was able to venture into space two more times. He flew on the Space Shuttle Atlantis to create the International Space Station.

This is where he captured many photographs of the great beyond.

Batt said he doesn’t know of an astronaut besides Melvin who used his position to create such unique photos.

“I have no idea why others would not have done this before, since so many people do not get to see the world in that type of light. How many people get the chance to go into outer space? I respect him for pursuing this path. Now we can all share the experiences of sightseeing amongst the stars,” voiced Freshman Marisa Fain.

Batt stated that Melvin speaks to many people on the topic of second chances and that Carving a way out of no way is deeply ingrained in Melvin’s philosophy. He thought so many doors were closed for him that sometimes he didn’t see when others began to open. He just kept living, and he did it well, declared Batt.

Fain shares these sentiments. She shared that she believes he was a great choice to represent the African-American community. He does it amazingly, she elaborated.

“This man lived out all his dreams. Now he has a sturdy footprint on the world. Not many people live their dreams. Some that do don’t enjoy them enough to want to speak on them. He has both,” said Fain.

Fain suggested that his passion for art kept him determined. His works expressed some feeling he may not have been able to express, she said. The arts showed him how to never lose focus and aim for those second chances, even if he didn’t see a clear path. He found himself when he felt the power of art, expressed Fain.

She said that it is terribly wrong to limit yourself. You can go as far as you’re willing to pursue. His actions are teachings to her. If you’re not satisfied with your station, then you should change it. You don’t know how far you can go, if you never try. This is the lesson young adults need to learn, said Fain.

Batt stated that Melvin was not a privileged child. He was challenged as a kid. He is an inspiration. He changed the status quo and became an astronaut as a black man. Yet, he exceeded this further by being an artist. He is a great example of how to be both. Despite the slack he received for being a “nerd,” he didn’t dumb himself down, relayed the director.

“This guy from the little town of Lynchburg installed an arm on the International Space Station to help ourselves advance in lower-Earth orbit. All of you can do that. You’ve just got to want it bad enough,” asserted Melvin.