Art in space: Calgary group arranges blast off for 150 Canadian works

A collection of 150 works of Canadian art will boldly go where no paintings have gone before, thanks to some creative Calgarians.

The first payload of art will be shot up aboard the Austral 2017 stratospheric balloon from Alice Springs, Australia, in the coming days.

The RumbleSat Art in Space Mission — part performance art, part science project — is being made possible by the co-operation of Canada's space program.

"The Canadian Space Agency has opened their payload hatch to us," said Lorene Shyba, one of the project's organizers.

The Alice Springs flight will take up 64 pieces of art measuring about 12 cm by 20 cm.

A second payload of 86 miniature works — more like 2.5 cm by three cm — will be launched up on a satellite from Nevada in May.

A third phase of the mission is also in the works that will see more Canadian art sent to deep space.

"Maybe somebody will find it," said Shyba.

'It sounds nuts, right?'

And what exactly is the point, you ask?

"Well, it sounds nuts, right,?" said Rich Theroux is one of the founders of Rumble House, a downtown art studio and gallery that gave the project its name.

"The two reasons why we want to send them into space — one, art is based on provenance. So the value of art, depending on who owned it, or who's willing to stand behind it, and where it's been is what makes the really high, valuable pieces of art valuable," Theroux said.

"So, we wondered, if by putting them into space, it would change the perception of the piece."

And then there's the more scientific question.

"Because we're sending a number of missions up, we wanted to know if the pieces being in space would change at all," he said.

The participating artists were asked to either make a reproduction of their piece to keep on earth, or to cut the piece in two for comparison.

The artworks that have gone up into space and returned will be part of the 150 Artists to the Edge of Space exhibition, with the first show in Calgary. 

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