Art and Science: LARSS Students Find the Perfect Mixture
By: Denise Lineberry
(Part 1 of 2 parts)

Amanda Cichoracki is here for one summer, but she is making a mark that will linger long after she is gone. She is responsible for painting a mural in NASA Langley’s cafeteria.

Her mural’s theme is “NASA: 50 Years and Beyond.” She spends her mornings and afternoons in the cafeteria with paint on her hands and sometimes on her face and in her hair. Cichoracki loves what she is doing, as does Haley Anderson, whose art is going into Building 1212.

Chichoracki and Anderson are part of the Langley Aerospace Research Summer Scholars (LARSS) program and both have a passion for art.

“I always wanted to be an astronaut and work for NASA when I was younger,” Chichoracki said. “So I found it ironic that my first major art project was at NASA.”

Amanda Cichoracki.

Amanda Cichoracki painting a mural on the cafeteria wall. Photo Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

Click on the image for a larger view

Cichoracki has always been surrounded by math and science. Her father is a math teacher and her mother is a science teacher, both at the high school level. Her brother, Brian, who is 18 months younger than her , is a computer science major.

Cichoracki chose the road less traveled in her family circle, and it led her into the Langley Aerospace Research Summer Scholars (LARSS) Program and oddly enough, in an area where she once thought she might end up.

“I always thought that I’d be a marine biologist or an astronaut, but I chose art,” she said.

From the age of 12, Cichoracki carried her sketchbook with her everywhere. “I’ve always liked drawing,” she said.

As a rising junior and fine arts major at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she has embraced her love of art and has been able to dabble in many other areas besides painting and drawing.

Although painting is her favorite form, her college also allows her to take courses in sculpture and graphic arts. “It’s a very well-rounded program. You can pretty much design your own major,” she said.

This is not the first mural Cichoracki has painted and it definitely will not be her last. At her home in New Lenox, a Chicago suburb, her parents allowed her to paint an ocean scene on the bathroom wall.

Her goal is to become an illustrator, but she is embracing the opportunity this summer to mix her passion for painting and her interest in NASA.

“It is really laid back here,” Cichoracki said. “The people are all very nice. It’s a very interesting place.”

She heard about the LARSS program from her aunt, Rosa Oseguera-Lohr of the Aeronautics Systems Analysis Branch. And Cichoracki decided to leave Chicago to take advantage of the opportunity at NASA Langley.

Her mentor, Sheri Beam of Advanced Planning and Partnership Office, chose Cichoracki as a LARSS student for the sole purpose of painting the mural in the cafeteria.

“Often, people will select interns solely on their grades or respective schools,” Beam said. “Although those are important, finding someone’s experience, passion and commitment to a career path is even more important.”

Beam went on to explain, “What really piqued my interest was her personal statement. And, she has really lived up to it. She’s been fantastic!”

Cichoracki’s Personal Statement: “I am particularly interested in the idea of creating a mural for a scientific facility. My entire family is focused in math and science, but my artistic endeavors have fostered within them an appreciation for art. I understand that even the scientific mind needs a break from problem solving to revel in simple and natural beauty. Humans seem to have the innate craving of sensory stimulation. Science requires a great amount of creativity; instead of being considered the opposite of art, it should be viewed as co-dependant. Art helps to nourish the constructive portion of the brain. I would love to have the opportunity to assist in this process. I am very excited about working to enhance the Center with a mural depicting the future of Langley.”

Cichoracki’s summer project is working in acrylics. It started as a sketch and is quickly becoming a mural. Her painting is a work-in-progress, expected to be complete by August 8, the final day of the LARSS Program.

It’s all a part of the center’s attempt to improve the quality of life at NASA Langley, with their paintings being one step toward visual improvements.

(Part 2 coming Monday: Once a computer program writer at a wind tunnel, Haley Anderson turns her talents toward art.)

NASA Langley Research Center
Managing Editor: Jim Hodges
Executive Editor and Responsible NASA Official: H. Keith Henry
Editor and Curator: Denise Lineberry