Figge Art Museum Partners with University of Iowa Department of Physics and Astronomy on NASA | ART Exhibition
July 24, 2012

Davenport, IOWA (July 2012) The Figge Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition, NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration, features a companion display of spaceflight instruments and models designed and built at the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The department led investigations of the upper atmosphere and magnetosphere under the direction of James Van Allen, and UI scientists since have built instruments flown on more than 60 space missions. Faculty members Mary Hall Reno and Kathy Kurth, along with UI Libraries Special Collections and Archives, were eager to help coordinate the display. “These historic instruments aren’t normally available for people to walk in and view,” notes Kurth. “We’re grateful for the chance to make them accessible to the public.”

“We’re always trying to find ways to collaborate with other institutions,” says Rima Girnius, associate curator for the Figge. “And since the University of Iowa has always been at the forefront of space research, we couldn’t pass up this opportunity.”

Alongside 72 paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures by such artists as Annie Leibovitz, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, and Jamie Wyeth, visitors to the museum can view 11 spaceflight instruments associated with the missions referenced by the art.

The UI instruments include a spare Rockoon (a rocket-borne instrument launched by Van Allen in 1953); a spare of the UI instrument flown on the first successful U.S. satellite, Explorer 1; a spare of the UI-built Hawkeye satellite; and models of the currently operating Juno and Cassini spacecraft.

Exhibiting the spaceflight instruments alongside the artwork they made possible reinforces, says Girnius, “the connection between science and art.” The exhibition will also feature a music production by the Kronos Quartet based on sounds of space gathered by Don Gurnett, UI professor of physics and astronomy.

The exhibitions will run from July 14 to October 7. 

About NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration

In celebration of its 50th anniversary in 2008, NASA collaborated with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on the exhibition NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration. Drawn from the collections of NASA and the National Air and Space Museum, the exhibition features 72 works of art commissioned by the NASA Art Program. Established soon after the inception of the U.S. space program in 1958, NASA’s Art Program provides a unique way to communicate the accomplishments, setbacks, and sheer excitement of space exploration to the public. The selected works span the entire history of NASA and include paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, and other media by such artists as Annie Leibovitz, Nam June Paik, Robert Rauschenberg, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, William Wegman, and Jamie Wyeth.

 at the Figge Art Museum is generously sponsored by the ALCOA Foundation, John Deere, Genesis Health Systems and Cobham, plc. 

 was organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in cooperation with the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The Smithsonian Community Grant program, funded by MetLife Foundation, is a proud sponsor of “NASA | ART” public programs.

STORY SOURCE: Iowa Now, News from the University of Iowa; Figge Art Museum

MEDIA CONTACTS: Susan Horan, Director of Marketing and Membership, Figge Art Museum, 563.326.7804 x2007,; Mary Hall Reno, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Iowa, 319.335.1920,

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