Open main menu

The NASA Art Program was established in 1962. NASA administrator, James Webb, jump-started the program by recommending artists to become involved in the agency.[1] Artists, including Norman Rockwell, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol were commissioned to record the history of space exploration through the eyes of artists. The first director of the Art Program was James Dean (NASA).[2] Using artists of different mediums and genres serves the purpose of educating different audiences about NASA and space exploration.[3] To give the artists the best experience possible, NASA allowed them unprecedented access to sites and materials. Participants were present at suit-up, launch sites, and press releases.[2] All works, from sketches to finished products, were given to NASA for use in museums and exhibitions.[4] The collection now includes 2,500 works by more than 350 artists. The program still exists today but is much smaller.[5]


How the Program BeganEdit

James Webb, an administrator from 1961 to 1968, put the program into effect. Webb wanted to use art to capture the emotions and importance of what NASA was doing.[5] James Dean (an artist and NASA employee) became the head of the program with the help of Hereward Lester Cooke, a curator of National Galleys.[5] To insure that the program would succeed, Cooke looked at similar programs that the air force had and decided that the program needed three things done: Use only commissioned artists, keep all of the sketches that the artists drew while they were observing, and give artists an idea of how to represent NASA, but still let them create whatever they wanted.[6]

Major eventsEdit

Project MercuryEdit

Artists first time observing a mission was the last Mercury launch, with Gordon Cooper's Faith 7.[7] Robert McCall, Mitchell Jamieson, Peter Hurd, John McCoy, Lamar Dodd, Paul Calle and Robert Shore were the first group of artists chosen.[6] Each artists was paid $800 for their services as well as the freedom to create whatever they wanted.[7] The art created during the last Mercury launch made it possible for the program to continue.[5]

Apollo 11 MissionEdit

In July 1969 the program had its biggest event. It captured the attention of the public so, the number of artists grew. Mission Control at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida are just two of the locations artist chose to observe. Soon after the mission, the director of the National Art gallery asked Dean, to use the art created during the mission.[7]

Artists involvedEdit

First Group of Commissioned ArtistsEdit


  • Bertram Ulrich — Curator
  • Robert Schulman — Director, NASA Art Program, (1975 - 1994)[11][12]
  • James Dean (NASA) — Founding Director, NASA Art Program, 1962-1974

Selected bibliographyEdit

  • Visions of Flight: a retrospective from the NASA Art Collection; Schulman, Robert; National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington D.C; 1988
  • Artistry of Space: the NASA art program; James Dean, Robert Schulman, Bertram Ulrich; Artrain USA, Ann Arbor, MI; 1999
  • NASA & the Exploration of Space : with works from the NASA art collection; Roger D Launius, Bertram Ulrich; Stewart, Tabori & Chang; New York, NY; 1998


  1. ^ "Soaring: Works from the NASA Art Program, Celebrating NASA Langley's Centennial Anniversary". Peninsula Fine Arts Center. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b Bert, Ulrich. "NASA and the Arts".
  3. ^ Meier, Allison. "Art in the Outer Limits: A Look at NASA's Space Art Program". Hyperallergic. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  4. ^ Goodyear, Anne Collins. "The Relationship of Art to Science and Technology in the United States, 1957-1971: Five Case Studies".
  5. ^ a b c d Almeida, Andres (2017-04-12). "NASA and Art: A Collaboration Colored with History". NASA. Retrieved 2018-11-06.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Collins, Anne. "Art, technology, and the American space program, 1962-1972". Retrieved 2018-11-06.
  7. ^ a b c Siceloff, Steven (15 May 2009). "NASA - Artists Give NASA a Different Light". Retrieved 2018-11-06.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "nasaartspace". Flickr. Retrieved 2018-11-06.
  9. ^ Cooke, Hereward Lester (1972). Eyewitness to Space. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. p. 227.
  10. ^ Fox, Margalit. "Paul Calle, Postage Stamp Designer, Is Dead at 82". Retrieved 2018-11-06.
  11. ^ Schmid, Beth (September 29, 1988). "NASA's Art Program Captures What the Camera Can't". NASA Magazine (Spring 1992): 11–17. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  12. ^ Schulman, Robert (1988). Visions of flight : a retrospective from the NASA Art Collection. United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). p. 3. Retrieved 1 October 2018.

External linksEdit