Aviation for Women

JAN-FEB 2018

Aviation for Women is the flagship member publication of Women in Aviation International. Articles feature women who have made aviation history, professional development ideas, and current-topic articles.

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J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 8 AviationforWomen 29 in space before, and it really was a shock to me. I had no clue when I took the paints up there that nobody had done this before." Some astronauts led the way. Alexei Leonov, one of the earliest astronauts, had brought colored pencils with him and sketched in space, drawing things like the or- bital sunrise and portraits of his crew members. "The painting was really fun up there, and then when I was thinking about retiring, I really wanted to find a unique way to share the experience of flying in space and what we're doing in space and earth appreciation," Nicole says. "I kept coming back to painting. I knew I wanted to get back to painting anyway after I got home, and it seemed like a really different, fun way to engage audiences that might not other- wise think about what we're doing in space." Were there any particular views from space she liked best? "It's all really just stunning, glowing, beautiful," she says. "But my favorite is certainly tropical waters—those blues and turquoises—and some of the desert patterns. To me, the most beautiful place on the planet is from the southern coast of Florida down to the northern coast of South America. There you see endless expanses of the blues and turquoises, and it's just gorgeous." These visions are clearly reflected in some of the paintings she has done here on Earth. While looking out on the planet, Nicole gained an appre- ciation for how absolutely perfect the planet is set up to take care of us, and also how absolutely fragile it is. "You cannot deny that thin line of atmosphere; every astronaut says it," she says. Also visible are storms, hurricanes, forest fires, and glacial action. Now retired and a full-time artist, she lives just south of St. Petersburg, Florida, with her husband, who she describes as "awesome" and "a lover of spaceflight" and their 15-year-old son who recently started high school at Admiral Farragut Academy. The school has programs in oceanography and marine science and flight training. Nicole's husband is also in the space business. His company ac- quired slots in space for commercial telecommunication satellites. Besides her personal painting, Nicole is developing programs combining science and art, and especially working with children. "I really think there is a wonderful interaction between the two," she says, allowing for the "communication of complex themes through art work." "I think our brains just tend to wrap around, and understand, something that is visual much better than 'the ones and zeros' of science," she says. She points to the Hubble Space Telescope, which sends back data in this way. "The way we really understand what we're seeing from Hubble is from the imagery that is generated from it." Nicole has been doing a number of projects with that kind of "Sci-Art" theme, she says, adding that probably the most impor- tant has been the Spacesuit Art Project. This involves children, who are going through pediatric cancer treatments around the world, painting with astronauts. Their art- work is put together by a spacesuit company and made into space- suits, and some of them have been sent to the space station. "It's been just a really wonderful project, and a great example of the power of art a nd healing— a nd therapies that aren't just medicine or treatments in hospitals—but the way we can leverage art to im- prove people's lives." Nicole painted with children in Houston first, and then built a suit called "Unity" made from artwork from children in all of the coun- tries that are partnered with the International Space Station pro- gram. "We modeled it after those relationships—successful, peace- ful relationships that we have with our space station partners," she says. That suit just got back from the space station, showing the kids they were involved in an art project inspired by space. "But it's also pulling them out of that environment of treatments and their illness," she says, "to a place where they can be creative and curious, and see their artwork become part of something that is much bigger than just them. The children come into art sessions and start painting, and begin talk- ing to you about space and their futures, which a lot of the time they're not able to think about. I think it is a very healing experience for them." Currently, Nicole is spending a lot of time on the spacesuit proj- ect, and determining what the next steps are. "Really, our goal ul- timately is to facilitate more of these art-and-healing programs around the world, and get some research up to the space station." Besides the spacesuit project and other Sci-Art projects, she spends some time on her own artwork. You can follow her prog- ress on her paintings on her Facebook page: www.Facebook.com/ NicoleStottTheArtisticAstronaut. One message Nicole talks about a lot is "the spaceship doesn't care if you're a boy or girl." She thinks many women put them- selves in places with limits, "like me not even believing that I should apply to be an astronaut. It wasn't because I thought they won't pick a girl, but just not having the confidence in myself." "I really believe if you are passionate about something, that's when the opportunities show up, and you get surrounded by the people who are excited about that too." Young girls, especially, need role models, she says. "They need to see women doing things that they think are impossible, challenging, or out of their reach. Be- cause we, more than boys, have a 'see it, be it' kind of mentality about things." ✈ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Carole Shifrin, WAI 72962, has been an aviation journalist for de- cades and enjoys her own connections of science and art at vari- ous museums and exhibits she's traveled to around the world. Nicole Stott will speak at the 2018 International Women in Aviation Conference, March 22-24, 2018, at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada. To register for the conference, and find out more about the schedule of events and activities visit www.WAI.org/ 18conference. MARCH 22-24 2018 Reno WAI 2018 BILL STAFFORD/NASA–JSC HOUSTON TEXAS

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