This is not a NASA Website. You might learn something. It's YOUR space agency. Get involved. Take it back. Make it work - for YOU.

NASA's First and Last Artist in Residence?

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
June 21, 2005

Inside the Beltway, Washington Times

“NASA two years ago tabbed Ms. Anderson to be its first-ever “artist in residence,” a position that carried a $20,000 stipend to create and perform a theatrical piece about NASA. … Last week, continuing his personal battle to rid the federal government of wasteful spending, Rep. Chris Chocola, Indiana Republican, successfully amended the Science, State, Justice and Commerce annual appropriations bill “to prohibit federal funds from being used to employ an ‘artist in residence’ at NASA.”

Congressional Record Excerpt:


[Page: H4530]


Mr. CHOCOLA. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

The CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

Amendment No. 1 offered by Mr. Chocola:

Page 108, after line 7, insert the following:


SEC. 801. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to employ any individual under the title “artist in residence”.

The CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to the order of the House of June 14, the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Chocola) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Chocola).

Mr. CHOCOLA. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Wolf) for his good work on this bill. I also appreciate the opportunity to offer this amendment.

This amendment is really about prioritizing spending and fiscal responsibility. Over the last 2 years, NASA has spent $20,000 for an artist-in-residence program. My amendment is designed to prevent or limit that practice in the future.

Mr. Chairman, nowhere in NASA’s mission does it say anything about advancing fine arts or hiring a performance artist. In fact, Laurie Anderson, the person that was chosen to perform the role of a performance artist, when she was called to be offered the job, she said, Sure, what do I do?

And the response she got from NASA was, Well, we do not know; we have never done this before.

One of the first things that I did in 2003 after I showed up as a new Member of Congress is I attended a memorial service for the Columbia astronauts. Certainly, spending money by NASA on a performance artist and a artist-in-residence program does nothing to make sure that the shuttle program gets back into space and prevents such tragedies in the future.

Now $20,000 may not seem like much in the Halls of Congress; but to the average American family, it is a significant amount of money. I wish I could say that NASA is boldly wasting taxpayer money where no agency has wasted it before, but I am afraid that the artist-in-residence program is just a symptom of a bigger problem.

Recently, the Heritage Foundation identified $386 billion of waste, fraud, and abuse in government spending. Every American business and every American family must make hard decisions to stand by their budget and eliminate wasteful funding, and the Federal Government should be no different and NASA should not be spending taxpayer dollars on a performance artist. I encourage all of my colleagues to support this amendment.

Mr. WOLF. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. CHOCOLA. I yield to the gentleman from Virginia.

Mr. WOLF. Mr. Chairman, I think this is a good amendment and I accept it.

Mr. CHOCOLA. Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. MOLLOHAN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, I rise not in opposition, I am going to agree to the amendment, but I would like to have some comment before I do.

Mr. Chairman, I think this is a regrettable amendment for a number of reasons.

First of all, it involves an awfully little bit of money. Secondly, I think it sends a really bad signal. Indeed, one of NASA’s missions is to inspire; and it has had an arts program, a very small arts program since 1962. Such luminaries as Norman Rockwell have participated in it over the years.

It is in furtherance of part of NASA’s mission. NASA’s mission is to inspire, to educate. Indeed, in the education theme of NASA’s FY 2006 budget, it states: “To develop the next generation of explorers, NASA must do its part to inspire and motivate students to pursue careers in science and technology and engineering and in mathematics.”

A part of it is connectivity. One of the ways NASA has done that, if anyone has visited its facilities, is through beautiful murals and other art initiatives. This particular initiative that the gentleman is speaking to is the appointment of Laurie Anderson as an

artist-in-residence, which is another phase, if you will, in NASA’s arts program. It is a worthy program. It has developed over those years since 1962 an awful lot of memorable artworks. There is no reason to believe that this initiative, which is so modest in nature, would do anything but further enhance the arts program at NASA . Again, it is so small that it is just minuscule. I am afraid the amendment really represents more art bashing than it does good fiscal policy.”

Republican National Study Committee: NASA Employs Performance Artist $20,000 Taxpayer-Funded Stipend

For two years, NASA paid Laurie Anderson as the agency’s “artist in residence.”The performing artist was commissioned to perform a theatrical story-telling piece in theaters across the nation, as part of a NASA outreach effort. The artist in residence position was not specifically authorized by Congress.

Job Description:

  • Create and tour a theatrical piece, educating theater-goers about NASA; and
  • “…to produce a film on the moons of the solar system” for the 2005 World Expo.

Laurie Anderson describes the film in this way, “It’s images from above…It begins with this idea of stuttering and how difficult it is to start things.And it’s connected to the rocks in many ways.”[1]

Additional Employment While Working for NASA

  • Preparing for her violin tour;[2]
  • Taking long walks around Europe to create an audio diary for French radio; and
  • Composing music for a Japanese garden for the 2005 World Expo.[1]

When asked how she is working on so many projects while also working for NASA, Anderson replied, “The NASA artist in resident thing is a very small stipend. It’s not enough to really do stuff…”[2]

Statements by Laurie Anderson in Interviews During Time at NASA:

  • “Congress is the jocks and they’re always saying how terrible it is that NASA spends their money on all this stuff.”[3]
  • “As sad as I am about being in the United States these days, NASA is genuinely exciting.”[4]
  • Suggested to a NASA engineer while touring NASA facilities, “Have you ever thought of a different set-up?…I’m on a quest against rectangles.”[5]
  • “…I’ve been trying to avoid goal-oriented behavior.”[2]
  • “I am and always have been a snob.”[3]
  • “I think a lot of people in Washington are extremely suspicious of NASA.”[2]
  • “I met many astronauts, and they seemed so out of place.”[4]

[1] “Moon and Stats Align for Performance Artist,” Washington Post, June 30, 2004.

[2] “Moon Rocks,” NewsweekOnline, July 9, 2004.

[3] Vue Weekly,

[4] “Post-Lunarism,” New York Times, January 30, 2005.

[5]”NASA artist in residence tours Ames’ key research facilities,” Astrogram, July 2003

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.