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Artists Record Columbia's FlightNASA Activities - April 1981A tradition nearly as old as the space program itself continued in April when artists recorded the events at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., of the first flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia for NASA.
For more than 18 years, NASA's art program has commissioned some of the nation's outstanding artists to render their impressions of key events in the space program. The artist donates time and talent in return for an honorarium to cover expenses.
The purpose of the agency's art program is to collect an archival history of the exploration of space. Artists have been present at Cape Canaveral as astronauts suited up for their flights and were launched into space, and they have been aboard recovery ships when the astronauts returned to Earth. They have flown simultors to experience at least a taste of what it is like to fly in space.
Participating artists have ranged from traditionalists such as Peter Hurd and James Wyeth, to modernists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Lamar Dodd. The art produced varies from subjects closely seen and sharply delineated to those only sensed or imagined by the artist. The renowned artists commissioned by NASA to record the flight of Columbia include: Lamar Dodd, Henry Casselli, Robert McCall, Arthur Shilstone, Wilson Hurley, Tom O'Hara, Jack Perlmutter, Bill Robles and William Philips.
There is much precedent for artists to record historic events such as a space flight. Artists have long recorded important events in American history, including the settlement of the West, the Civil War and World Wars I and II.
The work of artists who have participated in the NASA program has been used extensively in books, magazines, newspapers, motion pictures, television and even on postage stamps. Individual artists have received awards for their work.
The paintings, drawings and other works of art produced under the program become the property of NASA but they are frequently loaned to museums or other organizations for display.
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