Monday, August 10, 2015

Blogathon on the Intersections of Art and Science - Day 2

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on………………"

Day 2 Question:
How do we scale up more intersections between the arts and sciences?

Julia:  Before we’ll see more artists lending a hand in data visualization, or more scientists perusing contemporary art galleries, and the like, the idea that there is a fruitful and beneficial relationship between science and art needs to be planted in the minds of students. I firmly believe that this is where the separation between art and science begins for most individuals. As students enter college a tunnel vision effect sets in as majors are chosen and disciplines outside one’s major are left behind – this is the way our educational system is set up. It creates for highly specialized disciplines, which while not a negative thing in itself, allows for a painter to have no idea what Einstein’s theory of relativity is, and a scientist to have never heard of Duchamp (and for those who know about either of those things, it is unthinkable that someone could not know!) Students – who become our future lawmakers, CEOs, world-makers – need to learn that art and science are two sides of the coin of our culture. They both ask the same basic questions (Who are we? Why are we here? Where are we going?), and utilize different approaches to answer them. This holistic attitude at large would naturally lead to more intersections between the two areas, as more transdisciplinary spaces are developed and more grants are given for collaborative work.

Youngmoo:  Art and science collaboration is an incredibly difficult thing to scale, because the intersections resonate with individuals in different ways. One approach is to develop organizations and places that specifically provide a space for such interaction. I have the privilege of directing one such initiative, the ExCITe Center at Drexel University, where we try to facilitate art/science collaboration. Our Center incubates novel faculty-driven research, student activities, and civic engagement initiatives to continually explore, create, and innovate. We actively engage participants from a diversity of fields to foster creativity, personal expression, curiosity, and group collaboration. This includes an annual Seed Grant competition for novel multidisciplinary, collaborative projects that is open to all across the University. We also convene a regular monthly gathering (T3: Third Thursdays at Three PM), consisting of a series of 5-minute "lightning" talks, ranging from fashion design to robot artificial intelligence (and everything in between!).

But ultimately, I think greater art/science interaction starts with learning, especially at an early age. Nearly every academic curriculum at some point becomes quite rigid, and our children start believing that math and music are opposites, or that there's no overlap between art and science class. I think that we need greater flexibility to explore those intersections (by the way, I don’t necessarily think this involves radically changing education standards, but just allowing for greater flexibility in how we approach some learning objectives). At the ExCITe Center, we advocate for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Design, and Math), as opposed to just STEM, at all levels of education. We recently completed our ninth annual Summer Music Technology high school outreach program, a one week camp that uses music technology to motivate interest in science and engineering. I also recently worked with a class of third graders on a joint science / music project exploring the physical acoustics of plastic tubes and then incorporating them into a musical performance. I think we need to create more opportunities for science and music teachers to work together!

Bill:  Answering this question will help solve one of the wicked challenges of our day.  The good news is that there seems to be growing interest from across multiple sectors on the need to optimize capabilities and collaboration at these intersections.  A prime example would include growing interest around how art and science can combine forces to help foster what are perceived to be necessary workforce competencies for the future.  Examples of these include expanding STEM learning to include improved critical thinking, problem-solving and imaginative skills to engender improved creativity and innovation in the work place.  A STEAM caucus has formed to investigate how these themes can be supported at the federal level.  And networks like the Innovation Collaborative are emerging that seek to advance knowledge, education strategies and collaboration across the fields of art, science and the humanities in K-12 settings.    In order to reach their potential, these efforts will need to align strategies across the learner’s life span, from formal and informal k-12 learning environments and higher education and on into the workforce.  This will ultimately demand a terrific amount of coordination and communication across a diverse set of stakeholders, but there is a lot of enthusiasm generating out of all of these realms to engage in these challenges.  And the need to ensure that potential gains resulting from these efforts will be benefit broad populations, especially high needs/under-represented groups can’t be overstated.  

Gregory Mack:  In order to increase the number of these activities, the first thing to do would be to make people aware that these opportunities are wanted and that there is a place for them. There are some organizations that have conversations about this intersection and encourage their members to not only do but also to show, such as the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (A2RU) and the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Adding more organizations to the mix would create more opportunities. The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Science Foundation have held summits on this topic and each has separately funded some sort of investigations in this area, mostly on a small scale. If, however, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation were to have a joint program that involved the review processes of each agency, that would send a powerful statement to the scientific and arts communities that these projects were not only encouraged but worthy of larger funding and recognition. One danger with that approach, however, would be to end up funding only those projects that are already successful collaborations. It is important to encourage collaborations on all levels and not stifle growth by rewarding only those that have already been especially successful.

Assuming there is some amount of scientists and artists who already know each other and are interested in working together (which is evidenced by the amount of activities that have already happened), the second thing to do would be to bring interested artists and scientists together who don’t have collaborators and otherwise might not meet. Thirdly is the provision of resources to allow for these endeavors –  time, space, and money. One more aspect might be to convince hesitant university leaders that these efforts are worthwhile and their faculty members should be able to participate in them – again, a statement from the NEA, NEH, and NSF could be powerful in this regard.

By making more opportunities available, making people aware of them, encouraging them to participate, and providing resources such as available collaborators and support, more explorations will happen.

Lucinda:  The Innovation Collaborative has found that one of the best ways to scale up more intersections between the arts and sciences is through inter-institution collaboration. This offers institutional opportunities for scale-up, helps validate the importance of this work through institutional support, and increases national visibility.

Another important avenue to scale up more intersections is through the use of social media. It can promote the value, importance, and various applications of these intersections, in addition to offering opportunities for networking and further connections among individuals and groups.

Rieko:  A general answer is we need more effective communication tools for bridging the culture and language differences between arts and sciences.  Beyond that, the question we need to ask is “what are we hoping to accomplish by scale up?”  The reality is that developing quality collaborations and creating original work is a time-intensive process, requiring individuals to be motivated and committed to see it through, especially if the funding structures are not available.  So, the scale-up solution is not straight forward since we still do not have clear understanding about what works and why, and the structures to support these endeavors are not in place in many organizations.  

Thank you panelists.

Tomorrow's question asks where are we already working ogether at these intersections and where we might we expand in the future.

Have a great day.

Don't Quit

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