SPACE FLORIDA, BREVARD COUNTY (November 6, 2023) – Space may be the final frontier but it’s proving to aspiring artists that creativity has no limits.

Attending the Space Florida Art Contest “Time Travel to 2123” on Monday, a dozen finalists in the annual contest were treated to an out of this world experience as the grand prize winners were announced by Florida’s Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez, who serves as the Chair of Space Florida. Nuñez was joined by Space Florida CEO and President Col. Robert Long and Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd.

“As we seek to instill a passion for space with initiatives like this contest, we also nurture the curiosity and creativity needed to tackle the complex challenges of this industry. Investing in early education and experiences in aerospace not only expand the talent pool it also fosters a new generation of workforce with fresh perspectives and ideas,” said Long.

“The Space Art Contest is a fantastic example of how we can introduce all children to the wonders of space,” he said.

On hand to share the day with the students and their families, 2016 Florida Artist Hall of Fame inductee, international artist Romero Britto, personally oversaw an after-lunch art session with the young artisans. Britto was attendance for the presentation of the inaugural Romero Britto Award to St. Johns County student Chloe Barry.

A staunch advocate of arts education, Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd shared his enthusiasm and support for the competition and inclusion of arts in education during his remarks. Chief Arts and Culture Officer

“The arts improve the lives and academic performance of students, strengthening Florida’s future workforce and economy,” said Secretary Byrd, who serves as Florida’s Chief Arts and Culture Officer.

“As someone who grew up in Florida fascinated by NASA and space exploration, I’m impressed and encouraged by their artwork. It shows us that the artist explorers and leaders of tomorrow are already dreaming big today,” he said.

One of two grand prize winners, fifth grader Ailynn Chen of Orange County proudly displayed her work as mom Xiaoli Chen took photos.

“It was really an exciting feeling to be selected,” said Chen. “This is one of my first art contests I’ve very won. I wanted to try something out and express my art form. I want to be a Florida artist in the future.”

They were excited to receive the notification Chen’s work had been selected as finalist.

“When I got the phone call, I really couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I’m really, really proud of her.”

Students K-5 were invited to participate, and over the past two years, more than 4,000 works of art have been submitted from students across Florida. Kolton King, six in first grade.

“We were floored, really shocked out of all the possibilities he was one of the ones that got picked,” said mom Katelyn King. “He wants to be an engineer for NASA.”

Volusia County art teacher Joanna Elliot watched as her student Ankie Shi, a former fifth grader at Spirit Elementary School in Deltona, posed with her entry for photos.

“Art is so amazingly important. It gives them something to motivate them at school, get their creativity out, imagination, everything. I would hope that they would enjoy doing it and when they win, it means so much. It meant so much not just for Ankie, but the students at my school to know we had a winner, that all these awards come with it and just to be recognized.”

Grand prize winners Rafael Kleiman of Miami-Dade County and Ailynn Chen of Orange County will have their work flown into space on a SpaceX mission.