Lowry Burgess

Lowry Burgess (1940-2020) was a Professor at Carnegie Mellon University at Pittsburgh, PA at the time he accepted the position of Chair of Taksha Institute for Space Arts (TISA), within the Taksha Institute of Humanities and Arts (TIHA), a division of Taksha Institute (TI).

Educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the University of Pennsylvania and at the Instituto Allende in San Miguel, Mexico, Lowry Burgess earned international recognition as an art educator and the artist who created the first official Nonscientific Payload and artwork taken into outer space by NASA in 1989. He is considered one of the few pioneers of the Space Art movement that now has grown to hundreds of artists globally.

His artwork is in museums and archives in the US and Europe. He has exhibited widely in art and science museums in the US, Canada, throughout Europe, as well as Japan including various internationals such as Documenta, the Vienna Biennal, and his recent solo exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art. In the words of Art Historian Raymond Vezina at the University of Quebec, “[Burgess] shares [a] utopic, visionary tradition extending from Saint Augustine, through Dante, Thomas Moore to William Blake and the American transcendentalists of the 19th century: Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and, more recently, Gyorgy Kepes.”

After the tragic terrorist destruction of the Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan in 2001, he authored the “Toronto Manifesto, The Right to Human Memory,” receiving worldwide endorsement. One of the provisions of the Manifesto has led to the creation of a new global value/incentive for the protection of cultural sites throughout the world. This new value/incentive has since been implemented by UNESCO and the World Bank.

He held the positions of Professor of Art and former Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Distinguished Fellow in the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University. He held the Koopman Distinguished Chair at the University of Hartford. He founded and administrated many departments, programs, and institutions during his 45 years as an educator in the arts, and created curricula in the arts and humanities in the US and Europe while serving for twelve years on the National Humanities Faculty.

For 27 years, he served as a Fellow, Senior Consultant, and Advisor at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he created and directed large collaborative projects and festivals in the US and Europe. “First Night”, the international New Year’s arts festival, was created and founded by him. He originated the first “Arts in the Subways” program for the Department of Transportation and developed and advised in more than a dozen major city scale projects.

Burgess received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, as well as several awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, and the Berkmann Fund. He received the Leonardo Da Vinci Space Art Award from the National Space Society. His book, “Burgess, The Quiet Axis” (written in four languages) received the Imperishable Gold Award from Le Devoir in Montreal.

Among his hundreds of exhibitions and performances, most recently, his works were exhibited at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, CA., the Festival of Art Outsiders, and the CNES, the French Space Agency in Paris, as well as a solo exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh and with his newly formed “Deep Space Signaling Group” in an artwork involving the International Space Station and NASA in April 2008. His work on new aspects of his lifework, the “Quiet Axis,” continued through his life.

Burgess’ work was widely celebrated as a featured artist on television and radio broadcasts in the US, Europe, Canada, and Japan: NOVA, “Artists in the Lab”; Smithsonian World, “Elephant on a Hill”; “Artists of Earthwatch”; “Arts and New Technologies” (Tokyo 12); “Artransition” (Austrian, German National Television and 24 other state television systems); “The Quiet Axis” (Hungarian State Television); and more than two hundred national and international radio broadcasts including two NPR broadcasts on his works. He appeared on the CBS Today Show and in numerous other appearances on television in Canada and Europe and has been widely published in numerous books, newspapers and magazines.