Space Suit Art Project
It’s called the Space Suit Art Project, and through it, pediatric patients and their families, as well as the hospital’s staff, are hand-painting decorative fabric swatches that are then stitched together to create two replica spacesuits.
So far, the project has produced a spacesuit named “HOPE” from more than 600 swatches painted by patients, families and MD Anderson staff. A second suit, “UNITY,” will be assembled from hand-painted swatches provided by the space centers that partnered to build the International Space Station and by children’s hospitals around the world, symbolizing the global issues surrounding childhood cancer.
A third suit, “COURAGE,” is not a patchwork suit, but a NASA-issue flight suit hand-painted by patients, their families and hospital staff. On July 18, COURAGE flew aboard a cargo vessel to the International Space Station where it will be worn by astronaut Kate Rubins, who is conducting research aboard the space station.
The Space Suit Art Project was developed through the hospital’s Arts in Medicine Program, which helps pediatric patients cope with cancer treatment through art.
“Art is a creative way for patients to forget about their treatment. I’ve seen patients’ spirits lifted when they come to my art classes,” says Ian Cion, program director of the Arts in Medicine Program. “When I told them that their artwork would be used on spacesuits, they were really excited.”
Retired NASA astronaut Nicole Stott collaborated on the project. Stott is the first astronaut to paint what she saw while looking out the window of the International Space Station.
“The Space Suit Art Project is the most meaningful project I’ve ever been apart of,” says Stott. “The power and inspiration of the artwork that each of these kids are producing is overwhelmingly impressive. I’m in awe of the very positive impact I see on everyone participating.”
Jacob Ballard, a 17-year-old Ewing’s sarcoma survivor, provided artwork for the first two suits.
“I’m excited to tell people that my art went to space,” he says. “One day, I hope to work with the space exploration vehicles at NASA.”