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Flashback: Art and the SS United States

"She was withdrawn from service back in 1969," says Conservancy executive director Susan Gibbs. "But what is striking is that she still inspires so much creativity."

The above sentiment comes from a 2016 segment of WHYY's weekly TV program, Friday Arts. The segment, which was helmed by Emmy-winning producer Michael O'Reilly, looks at the intersection between art, design, and the SS United States.

Apart from Susan Gibbs — whose grandfather, William Francis Gibbs, designed the United States — the segment features a moving performance from dancer Luisa Meshekoff, whose father was one of the prominent American artists whose work adorned the ship's interiors.

"I think he would've loved to come onto the ship as an adventure, because he was never able to come on it in its heyday," Meshekoff says.

"When we first joined the Conservancy and met Susan Gibbs, they were talking and showing slides, and they had my father's artwork up on the screen. Everybody turned around, and stood up, and was looking at my father," she remembers. "Perhaps [William Francis] Gibbs and my father had something in common — not really being able to be appreciated in the moment."

From Friday Arts, "Art and the SS United States," Luisa Meshekoff and Sidney Grant dance on board the ship, to live music performed by the Oscuro Quintet.

The segment also features reflections from photographer (and former Big U passenger) Caroline E. Savage and Stephen Ujifusa, author of A Man and His Ship: America's Greatest Naval Architect and His Quest to Build the SS United States. Watch it in full below.


The SS United States has created unforgettable memories for countless former passengers and crew. We can save this magnificent vessel for future generations, but we need your help.

Do you have memories of your time aboard America’s Flagship? Send us an email at

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