'To infinity and beyond': Minnesota painting to live on moon in perpetuity

A painting of a large boat on a panel
“Once Upon a Childhood”: 24”x33.5” oil painting on aluminum panel by Kelly Schamberger.
Mitch Rossow Fine Art Photography

The moon will soon be home to an oil painting of a wooden model ship lit by fireflies. 

“It is my all-time favorite painting,” says Kelly Schamberger, a Duluth-based artist.  

Schamberger painted the image in honor of her uncle who passed away in 2020. “It's the most meaningful to me out of anything I've ever painted,” she says. 

The artwork, “Once Upon a Childhood,” is one of the winners of the 16th International Art Renewal Center Salon Competition, an award for contemporary realism in art.  

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According to the Art Renewal Center (ARC), the winning entries will be laser-etched on nickel microfiche or digitized on terabyte memory cards, and then enclosed in a time capsule on the Griffin lunar lander.  

The lander is slated to be launched by SpaceX in 2024 and, according to ARC, live “on the moon in perpetuity,” specifically on the Nobile Crater. These astral art efforts are part of “The Polaris Collection” by the Lunar Codex, a set of time capsules launched on three NASA-related missions.  

A woman with long brown hair wearing a blue shirt smiling
Artist Kelly Schamberger in her home studio.
Wolfskull Creative, Michelle Bennett

“So, this competition, in some ways, it feels kind of like the Grammys for art,” says Schamberger, who explains she shied away from entering work in past years because of the high level of competition.  

She says the possibility of this piece of art joining the Lunar Codex is what finally persuaded her to enter. Her painting was one of more than 5,400 entries from 75 countries, and one of 1,273 artworks to make it into the finalist round in November. From there, according to Schamberger,” it was narrowed down to 221 awards and honorable mentions that will be included in the lunar collection.”

The model wooden ship at the heart of her painting was one of many made by her late uncle, William Rager, who died from kidney disease in March 2020. 

As a kid, Schamberger would visit her uncle in Indiana, where he’d take her on motorcycle rides and the summer nights twinkled with fireflies.  

She only recalls going inside his house once, and on that occasion, she saw a model ship. After he died, she knew it was what she wanted to remember him. 

“I wanted it to represent, like this memory, this kind of magical memory of my childhood,” Schamberger says of “Once Upon a Childhood.” “This mysterious ship up on the shelf, and then the fireflies in the Indiana sky.” 

She adds: “To me, it was kind of in a way working through that grieving process of losing my uncle. And as many artists do, kind of channeling that, that sadness and love and gratitude for his life into something really beautiful and meaningful.” 

Not only is the artwork going to the moon in 2024, but in the summer of 2023, it will be on display for the official award ceremony in New York at Sotheby’s. 

For those unable to travel to New York, or the moon, to see Schamberger’s art, there will be a local opportunity: Frameworks Gallery in St. Paul is hosting a solo exhibition of her work, “Liminal Space,” Jan. 14 through March 4.  

The 2024 launch is also slated to be live-streamed. 

Correction (Jan. 5, 2023): A previous version misstated the number of paintings that were in the finalist round.  The above story is updated.

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.