The NASA Art Program was established in 1962 by James Webb, the agency’s administrator from 1961 to 1968. At a time when humankind was just beginning to venture into space, Webb recognized the importance of recording NASA’s work in a way that future generations could look back and fully appreciate all that the agency had achieved.
Artists were commissioned and given free rein to create works of art. NASA was not going to dictate a certain style as was the case of “socialist realism” of the Soviet Union. To help capture the emotions of space exploration, such as excitement and uncertainty. NASA allowed unprecedented access to sites and materials, with artists present at suit-ups, launch sites, and press conferences.
Artists participating in the program were a diverse group, ranging from the avant garde Robert Rauschenberg to the figurative Norman Rockwell and pop artist Andy Warhol. Since the 1990s the program has embraced new art forms, including video artist Name June Paik, novelist Ray Bradbury, photographer Annie Leibovitz and singer Patti LaBelle.
The collection now includes 2,500 works by more than 350 artists, and the program still continues today. It tells NASA’s story in a unique way, providing a historical record and inspiring a sense of national pride and shared accomplishment.
A handful of these pieces of art have been printed and placed on display as a linear exhibit space, Bridging Art and Science, located on Exploration Place’s indoor bridge.
Included with general museum admission and free for members.
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