• Patty Carey, founder of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, stands in front of the mural dedicated in her honor at the space center in 2012. The Cosmosphere was born when Carey and a couple of high school boys created a small planetarium in the poultry building at the Kansas State Fair. Carey is featured twice in the mural, once as a young woman on the right, and surrounded by young people on the left.

Aiming for the stars: Mural depicts Cosmosphere founder's vision

Monday, June 10, 2002

A mural honoring Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center founder Patty Carey's dream and vision -- through images of past and future space exploration -- was unveiled at the Cosmosphere Saturday night.

The vibrantly colored 7-by-14-foot mural by renowned space artist Robert McCall contains images of Cosmosphere artifacts, including the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane and the Apollo 13 and Liberty Bell 7 spacecrafts.

McCall is recognized as a world leader in capturing images of space as well as the vision and power of space flight, said Jeff Ollenburger, Cosmosphere interim director. McCall's murals hang in the National Air and Space Museum, the Pentagon and Johnson Space Center.

"And the things that Patty's done in this community over the past 40 years go hand-in-hand with the spirit and the vision of the space program," he said.

"There was no one better to capture both elements," Ollenburger said.

There are two portraits of Carey in the oil-on-canvas painting, now on permanent display in the IMAX lobby.

On the right is Carey in her early 30s, with her telescope, McCall said. The Hutchinson Planetarium, the forerunner to theCosmosphere, was founded by Carey in 1962.

On the left is Carey today, surrounded by young people of different backgrounds and races. Carey wanted to inspire youth and young people of America by establishing the planetarium, McCall said.

There are also adults in the painting, because the Cosmosphere relates to people of all ages, McCall said.

The Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft, recovered from the ocean in large part through the efforts of the Cosmosphere and restored at the museum, stands on a classical pedestal column in the center bottom, which was an attempt to bring the past into the story, McCall said.

The column was an effort to symbolically say that the past has been essential to the successes enjoyed today, and the hope for achieving the challenges of the future which are depicted in the mural, McCall said.

In the upper righthand corner of the painting is a spiral galaxy, which suggests deep space, McCall said. The galaxy is in the mural to imply that someday an advanced type of spacecraft will travel to deep space, he explained.

The mural also contains things that might be less obvious.

To the extreme right stands a chicken, because Carey started the planetarium in the Poultry Building on the Kansas State Fairgrounds.

Carey said more people are responsible for the Cosmosphere than one.

The stars, Carey said, "are the thousands of people who have made this Cosmosphere a reality. It's not a dream anymore, its a reality."

The mural was unveiled at an event for donors to the Patricia Brooks Carey Education Endowment.

The Cosmosphere and friends of Patty Carey commissioned the mural in November 2000, Ollenburger said.