Big Bend Conservation Alliance launches Serious Starlight fundraiser 

Our Lady of the Dark Sky by artist Julie Speed. The nun holds a white crowned sparrow during its migration as the profile of the McDonald Observatory and the dark skies are featured in the background. Posters of Our Lady of the Dark Sky are on sale through May 7, benefitting the Big Bend Conservation Alliance’s light swap program. Courtesy of BBCA.

BIG BEND — The Big Bend Conservation Alliance (BBCA) launched a dark skies fundraiser this week with the help of Marfa-based artist Julie Speed. 

A series of posters designed by Speed, T-shirts featuring Speed’s artwork and more are available through May 7 at A limited edition print, Starboard, is also available through Fort Davis’ Webb Gallery, and WRONG Marfa will have a stock of posters available in their gallery as well. 

All proceeds go to BBCA’s Serious Starlight program, which swaps lights in the Big Bend with dark sky compliant fixtures, helping preserve the night skies in one of the darkest regions of the world. 

“My new side project is a couple of Dark Sky nuns,” said Speed. The project is a spinoff of her Purgatory of Nuns series. One of the new works, Our Lady of the Dark Sky, offers protection against night blindness, tech zombification and city lights. It is one of several works available on signed posters helping raise funds for Serious Starlight. “This one was already Notre Dame du Refuge, so it wasn’t a far reach to make her a dark sky refuge protector,” she said. 

As part of the Serious Starlight program, BBCA works to shield lights with fixtures that point light down at the ground rather than up into the sky. Over the past two years, since the program’s beginning, the organization has replaced all the municipal lights in Presidio, bringing street lights in the town to 100% compliance, and has replaced 40% of the older mercury vapor lights in Marfa that are eligible for the program. Next steps include replacing approximately 250 noncompliant street lights in Alpine and working with more than 100 residents throughout the tri-county area that have signed up to swap out their old mercury vapor lights — fixtures that emit some of the worst light pollution in the region.

The fundraiser coincides with International Dark Sky Week and the first anniversary of the International Big Bend Dark Sky Reserve, a designation given to the region by the International Dark-Sky Association, making the Big Bend the largest “Dark Sky Reserve” in the world, protecting major wildlife habitats and migration corridors in Far West Texas and Northern Mexico.