Surely one of the only downsides to living on the International Space Station (ISS) is the lack of apparel options when it comes to functional space suits! But now, thanks to a collaboration between NASA and the folks at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, an astronaut on the ISS has a little extra flair in her space wardrobe. The Space Suit Art Project is headed up by director of MD Anderson’s Arts in Medicine Program Ian Cion and resulted in astronaut Kate Rubins donning a vibrant space suit decorated by cancer patients. As Cion tells The Creators Project: “There are many parallels between the lives and experiences of astronauts and the lives and experiences of patients going through cancer treatment—isolation, physical changes to the body, one’s life being at risk, to name a few. This project was not only designed to motivate and inspire patients to make art, but to think about their experience through a different perspective, to acknowledge that many of the qualities of character that make astronauts pillars of heroism are also present in even the youngest patient fighting cancer.”
The Space Suit Art Project consists of three suits: HOPE, COURAGE, and UNITY. The first suit, HOPE, was constructed from over 500 canvases that were painted and then quilted together by patients, families, and MD Anderson staff. This suit acts as a sculptural representation of the project that stays on the ground for display.
COURAGE, the second suit, features striking decorations created by cancer patients with acrylic paint on a NASA-grade flight suit. “During the creation of COURAGE, NASA astronauts, including Kate Rubins and Nicole Stott, visited the hospital to work on the suit with patients and families,” explains Cion. “Retired Astronaut Nicole Stott was the first person to ever make a painting in space, and Kate Rubins, currently on board the International Space Station, wore the hand-painted flight suit in a live video conversation with MD Anderson pediatric patients who were able to talk to her from Mission Control.”
In the collaborative spirit of the ISS, the third suit, UNITY, will be produced from a combination of collaborations that took place in cities around the world, where Cion and Stott traveled to present the project. “Each suit was made with the direct participation of patients, families, and staff. The first two were made exclusively at MD Anderson, while UNITY was made with MD Anderson patients and families as well as other hospitals and space stations around the globe,” says Cion.
While the Space Suit Art Project certainly succeeded in creating unique and beautiful garments through collaborative efforts, Cion explains that the project is much more than just an exercise in participatory creativity: “I began working on a series of projects that were collaborative and large scale with patients, so that their art was not just something we taped to the walls of their rooms, but something that connected them to each other, that formed relationships between patients and connected them to the community in a way that celebrated them not as cancer patients, but as artists.”
This is such an awesome project. Click on over to The Creators Project for more!