Sunday, August 30, 2015

I Don't Get It

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

Sometimes I look around at what we're NOT doing, especially when compared to other sectors, and I just don't get it.

I've give you some examples:

I.  I was watching the Little League World Series on television over the weekend.  This is 8 to 12 year old kids playing on a big stage like their heroes in the big leagues (though I must admit that on some of the teams some of the players look like they are in their 20's or something).  But it's basically kids living their dream - with all the considerable intensity and passion they can muster.  It has a certain purity to it because it's kids - not professionals, and the prize in winning is the satisfaction of having gone the journey and succeeded.  In many ways it isn't all that different from any number of arts pursuits that kids are involved in.

Apart from what it means to the kids, it is used by the Sports Interests as a tool to encourage kids to play baseball (and thus a future farm system for the sport; and also a tool to develop future fans) and more importantly, it is a public relations tool promoting the value of participating in sports for young people.  Indeed there were commercials and on air commentary to that precise observation.  The whole Little League apparatus is very organized and works very well in support of the proposition that sports are important and valuable.

I don't understand why the arts can't mount some similar efforts deploying kids' involvement in dance, music, theater and the arts as a whole.  Where is the arts version of the Little League World Series?  Where is the arts public relations tool to capture the same public platform touting the value of the arts to kids?  There are just as many kids whose lives are positively impacted by the arts as by Little League baseball; just as many kids passionate about their arts participation as ballplayers are; just as many proud parents and communities; and just as much potential media value in kids' performances on stage as on the ball field.  There ought to be some version of kids and the arts that gets that kind of media attention. But there isn't.

I don't get it.

II.  The movie and music industries discovered some time ago that the public is fascinated by Top Ten Lists.  Indeed, the music industry charts of the best selling singles / albums pioneered the approach.  And the movie industry gets all kinds of free press on an almost weekly basis by releasing the Top Ten Box Office hits (measured by gross ticket sales) which virtually every news station in the country seems to cover in on-air time.  It makes the release of new films more exciting, it gives free publicity to new releases and shows the public what is and isn't really popular. It's another on air tout for the film industry itself, including the idea of going to movies.   Why don't we have something like that? There are all kinds of statistics that we could compile easily enough and release as Top Ten lists -- everything from the Top Ten Attended Museum Exhibits of the Month; the Top Ten Grossing Dance or Symphony performances to the Top Ten Grossing Theater Productions.  Or maybe to garner big numbers, because the public and media like big numbers, the Top Aggregate Monthly Gross for All theater, dance, music, museum etc. attendance in the arts across the country.  The point is simply that we have the means to ramp up the media coverage we get simply by reporting (and packaging that reporting) on the statistics that exist.  Why aren't we doing something like that?

I don't get it.

III.  Speaking of lists, if someone were to compile a list of the Top Five Issues on the Nonprofit Arts field's priority agenda, here are some that would likely be included:  1)  Equity and Diversity; 2)  Community Engagement;  3) Audience expansion development, particularly with younger cohorts; 4) next generation donor cultivation; and 5) recruitment, retention, training and development of the next generation of leaders.

Why then are there so few younger people on arts nonprofit Boards of Directors?  The litany of justifications for the absence of anywhere near a proportional representation of, say Millennials, on our Boards (they lack commitment, they're inexperienced, they can't meet financial minimum obligations, they're unseasoned) are now seen largely as thinly disguised (lame) attempts to keep people off Boards whom current Board members don't want to share the decision making with.  

1)  If we truly want diversity then we have to address ageism - both against older and younger people; 2)  it makes no sense for community engagement efforts to ignore the now largest age group in the country - Millennials; 3)  foregoing the input of the very audience we are trying to attract is just stupid; 4)  ditto our attempts to cultivate future donors; and 5) just how do our future leaders acquire the skills and experience we want them to have if we exclude them from opportunities to develop those skills and gain that experience?  And keeping them off our Boards (or failing to recruit them) sends a negative message about how important they are to our future --- harming our recruitment efforts.  Yet few Boards have more than a token level, at best, of younger Board membership, and there doesn't seem any concerted, sustained efforts to get more younger people on our Boards.

I don't get it.

IV.  We are constantly now talking about how much work there is to do and how understaffed we are in our capacity to do that work and how pressed for time we are.  Indeed, increasingly the Executive Director, across the whole spectrum of arts organizations, spends more and more time as a fund raiser - to the exclusion of other tasks.   If time is an important asset, why then as a sector,  does it still take most of us a thousand words to address some issue or make some point, when a twenty word response would not only suffice, but be far more to the point?  Why, when we seem to love to tweet, can't we extend that discipline of the "only 140 characters" lesson of brevity to our ill served penchant to be so damn long winded about everything.  (Yes, I am assuredly guilty myself).  Why do we waste so much time and feel compelled to drone on and on about everything?

I don't get it.

V.  Where is our anger and outrage at the relentless attempts to marginalize our attempts to secure K-12 arts education across the country.  In what amounts to Grand Theft Arts (the stealing of our kids futures by failure to provide them with the opportunity to hone their creativity - which is a crime of sorts  -- and we ought to hold press conferences indicting local officials as a way to gain media attention) - we continue to accept it as though it is the natural order of things.  Why?  Why aren't we up in arms and marching in the streets to demonstrate how important arts education (or arts funding) really is?  Why don't we mobilize and demonstrate and picket school boards or legislatures?  Why are we so damn polite? So darned contrite and wimpy?  Why aren't we mad as hell?  And why don't we fully understand that marshaling public demand is key to solving a wide range of our problems, and without that demand, most of our efforts are doomed?  If an issue isn't important enough to us to demand a solution, how on earth can we expect it to be important to anyone else?  The fact is that those who "push" for what they want, more often get something, than those that sit idly by on the sidelines and say nothing.  Why we choose the latter approach is beyond me.

I don't get it.

Maybe some of you have the answers.  I don't get it.  I really don't.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dare to Imagine

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

A tip of the hat to Scott Heckes, recently retired Deputy Director (one of many hats he wore over a three decade tenure) at the California Arts Council.  I had the great privilege and honor to work with Scott during my tenure as Director of the CAC, and he served the arts in California with great distinction, passion, intelligence, sensitivity and style - all with good humor and a caring attitude.  Well done Scott and thank you.

Watching the news or reading the news has never been more disconcerting.  Everywhere there is evidence the world has entered an expanded and relentless dysfunctional era.  In too many places and too many instances, violence and stupidity seem to rule.  I admit, I am somewhat a cynic.  I've seen the inside of politics and business and know that the world is controlled in large part by selfish, greedy - and not all that enlightened or smart - people.  Recognizing that I am jaded, it's important for me (and other cynics and doubters out there) to affiliate with, and saddle up to, optimists - those who don't let themselves doubt that somehow, some way, we can get to solutions.  The arts are full of those people.  That is part of what makes the arts attractive.

Fellow blogger, Arlene Goldbard is an optimist.  She simply doesn't accept that what is wrong with the world has to stand; she refuses to accept defeat, and won't let setbacks cloud her judgment or paralyze her actions.  She deals with what might be possible, not through the lens of what stands in the way.  She keeps keeping on, and she, and those like her (and probably a majority in our field), inspire me.

Several years ago she hit on promoting the idea of Arts and Culture being represented at a Cabinet level in the White House.  She wasn't the first; it's an idea touted before her, and echoed after her.  And we all know that realistically it's not going to happen soon.  But she's not naive. She knew that it wasn't likely to happen.  So she did what those who get things going always do - she took action. She started an unofficial virtual United States Department of Arts and Culture  (USDAC).  She gave it a name and form, and invited a score of people to join her and help her define what this kind of thing might mean.

Here's the thumb nail description:

"The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) is the nation's newest people-powered department, founded on the truth that art and culture are our most powerful and under-tapped resources for social change. Radically inclusive, useful and sustainable, and vibrantly playful, the USDAC aims to spark a grassroots, creative change movement, engaging millions in performing and creating a world rooted in empathy, equity, and social imagination."

Why such a project?  Here's the answer:

"Active creative participation is a gateway to ongoing civic engagement and the capacity to collaborate is a key element of any resilient community. But for too long, we’ve believed that everything that counts can be counted, ignoring the vital role that arts and culture play in advancing equity, innovation, and democracy. Everything that is created must first be imagined, yet we've failed to fully invite and support people in every community to step up as artists and agents of change."  

The project is an exercise in what might be possible were people to imagine those possibilities as reality, and one of those possibilities is that if enough people can envision something, it's possible it can become reality.  And so she set about trying to move the mountain.

One of her first acts was to recruit a score or more leaders within the field to join her and become Ministers in the Department of Arts and Culture.  Clicking on the link you can see some smart, passionate and experienced people, well known in our field, liked the idea and accepted her invitation.  You can tell by the names each choose for their ministerial post that Arlene wanted people to have some fun with this.  But it should be noted that this isn't a joke -- underneath and at its' core,  it's a quite serious effort to move that mountain of public ennui towards what we do, and to work towards what we might all imagine could be possible if there were someday an actual Department of Arts and Culture as an official U.S. Government Agency - with a chair at the President's Cabinet --- established because, finally, there is recognition as to the value art and creativity has to the country.

At the heart of this effort is using imagination to animate the value of the arts.  The first project last year involved imagining sessions across the country.  And the current project is a Dare to Imagine week (during Arts and Humanities Month) wherein we in the arts can help the public (and ourselves) to imagine what the world might look like in the future if everybody would embrace the role and value of art and culture.

"From October 10-18, 2015, Emissaries from the Future will create Imagination Stations nationwide—popping up in parks, classrooms, galleries, conferences, farmer's markets and beyond for this large-scale act of collective imagination. Using creative tactics, Emissaries will engage people in envisioning the world they hope to inhabit and—looking back from the future—celebrating the work they did to get there. The resulting texts, images, videos, and more will be uploaded to an online platform, yielding a crowd-sourced vision of the future, inspiring art, policy, and community action."
Here is how you and your organization can participate:

How to participate: Sign up online to be an Emissary from the Future. Emissaries will receive free online training and a step-by-step toolkit making it easy to host an Imagination Station. Find out more and register by September 10th**:

If your organization wants to join the exercise and the fun, click here to become a partner.  It's really quite simple and won't take much time.  A very detailed and comprehensive tool-kit has been created to make it easy to participate.  Imagine if thousands of arts organizations did it.

My contribution is to posit to you, dear readers, the notion of a virtual Dare to Imagine station, that is focused on the politics of the 2016 election - which, I need not tell you, is already crazier than any Tea Party the Mad Hatter ever threw (and we are all Alice wondering just how we ever got into this nonsensical, logic-defying, insanity that is now American politics).

So I Dare you to Imagine what this election and the lead up to it over the next 15 months might be if we  had a cadre of people across the country who, at every opportunity, repeatedly and relentlessly asked candidates, their spokespeople and staffs and the media - to explain their support for (or lack thereof) for the arts and culture.  No bs'ing, no obfuscation, no deflection, no spinning their answers, no avoiding a simple, direct question:

"Do you understand the value of the arts to the economy, to education and job preparation, to healing and aging, to science, to tourism and to identity, a sense of place, and community development, and do you support funding for the arts and culture at one dollar per capita - nationally, on the state level and locally? and if you don't, why exactly not?"  
Imagine if we asked that question twenty to forty thousand times over the next year - in letters, tweets, emails, at meetings, on social networks, face to face and, well, everywhere.  Indeed, Americans for the Arts', Arts Action Fund has begun trying to do precisely that on the Presidential Campaign level. (I just want to ramp up the effort about 1000 times)
Imagine too that 20% of the hundred thousand people who work in the non profit arts were joined by 20% of the hundred thousand of those who support us -- as Board members, major donors, volunteers and the like -- and those 40,000 people (only a fifth of the total mind you) each gave just $20 in 2016 (just one year, no repeat obligations) for advocacy.  That would raise $800,000.  If we directed one third of that money to the national election (president and congress), one third to statewide races and one third to local races, we would have more real influence than we have ever had.  I wonder if people in our field really have any idea how much influence we would have with an $800,000 war chest.  It's easy to imagine that if an election cycle is going to cost in the neighborhood of several billion dollars, eight hundred thousand is just irrelevant peanuts, but that is simply NOT true.  It is a major, major amount of money and the leverage it can access is inestimable.  Dare to Imagine just how much that amount could help us.  And if you want to be bold, imagine twice or three times the participation.  Fantasy?  Probably - but Dare to Imagine is the challenge.

So perhaps you might set up a small Dare to Imagine Station in your office or venue or wherever, and challenge those in your organization to Imagine how we might impact this election to our direct benefit. I would love to hear your ideas.

So thank you to Arlene, to the Cabinet Ministers at USDAC, and to all the countless optimists out there who keep my cynicism in check, and allow me to harbor the secret belief that I think we actually can save the world - and that the arts will play a major role in that effort -- though we're going to have to deal with a lot of morons to get there.

Have a great week, and Dare to Imagine a better world.

Don't Quit

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Blogathon on the Intersections of Art and Science - Day 5

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

Reminder:  Please send me your nominations for inclusion on this year's Top 50 Most Powerful and Influential leaders in the U.S. nonprofit arts.

Day Five Question:
How might potential advances in the intersections of the arts and sciences benefit both fields and society in general, both short and long term?

Youngmoo:  Dissolving (or at least re-thinking) traditional barriers between (and within) science and the arts in education through STEAM learning will enable a variety avenues to careers in both the sciences and the creative and performing arts. We can't predict what careers will be in demand 20 years from now, but we do know that our children will benefit from being creative lifelong learners able to adapt and integrate knowledge across many disciplines. Furthermore, it’s increasingly apparent that innovation is enabled through a variety of pathways— including the design of physical artifacts, the visualization and manipulation of multi-dimensional and multi-media data, the development of computer code, and the creation of artistic works—enabling individuals to express their ideas using tools as diverse as the ideas themselves. We must continue to improve our practices for multidisciplinary learning to facilitate arts+science collaboration in order to provide the foundation for future innovation, collaboration, and discovery.

The arts have developed, over millennia, practices for creating and conveying human expression. Understanding the processes through which creative expression has evolved can greatly inform future directions in science and technology. Perhaps the most widespread impact of art+science collaboration will be in terms of personal expression. Emoticons and Emoji symbols have emerged to fill the expressive void in text-based media. These workarounds not only indicate the widespread desire for more expressive channels, but also highlight the importance of art in conveying expression. Through the confluence of art and science (and technology), I imagine a future in which people are able to more naturally express their ideas and intent to one another, regardless of the channel or distance.

In the long term, I hope for greatly improved communication and knowledge dissemination within society. Too often, we speak to only those in our disciplines and don't realize how far afield we've gotten from the general public. And yet, more and more discussions about policy, resource allocation, and governance absolutely depend upon a basic understanding of a field (global climate change being perhaps the most prominent example). In some ways science is experiencing what arts funding went through in the 1980s, which must be overcome through better communication. Greater understanding facilitates empathy, which lays the groundwork for a more active, vibrant, and just society.

Bill:  Perhaps an example from the past could provide us with clues on how promoting these synergies might impact our future.  Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel’s book “The Age of Insight”, describes how Viennese life at the turn of the 20th century provided opportunities in solons and coffee houses for scientists, writers and artists to converge, inform and transform each other’s work.   Schnitzler’s writing and the paintings of Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka advanced progressive attitudes in that time and place around things like the social and political liberation of women.  Their back and forth at the salons also helped shape Freud’s theories (just as his theories influenced their art), which ultimately lead to the birth of psychoanalysis. Before they met, it would have been impossible to imagine the form and nature of all these advances being made across culture and medicine.  It’s also hard now for us to imagine short and long term advances that might come to pass if we improved the ability for people working at the forefront of art and science to collaborate more effectively.  But wouldn’t it be great to find out?

Lucinda:  By fostering the intersections between the arts and sciences, both of these fields and the individuals within them will be enriched. For, as neuroscience points out, it is through looking through different lens that we understand at a deeper level, opening up possibilities not only for innovation, but also for individual brain development.

In the short term, these intersections offer opportunities for positive impact on each discipline - from education to industry to individual growth. In the long run, the advances in these individuals, in institutions, in education, and in industry will result in a leading, resilient, and highly innovative and productive society.

Julia:  This gulf between the arts and sciences has gone on for too long – it creates an atmosphere of distrust and prejudice from both sides, and apathy or confusion for those outside of them. This has been a problem since the end of the Enlightenment, when unity among disciplines was considered to be critical to maintaining a healthy human condition.

The interaction of art and science can only benefit our culture. As science is reinvigorating art, pushing it out of its post-modern haze, science needs art to help reconnect with the public. While statistics and projections are not naturally relatable, art is made for the public, and it is through the arts that more people will engage with science in a meaningful, personal way. Not that all art should be about science – art has always been about what is culturally central, and the more science advances the more applicable to daily life it has become. Hopefully in the short and long term this will lead to artists and scientists working together for both their own and mutual purposes. 

With a public that understands science better - cares about their own health, the health of our planet, our future in space, the origins of our universe, the mysteries of consciousness, and the like - our society will be able to face the 21st century situations that require transdiciplinary approaches. Should the team we first send to colonize Mars include experts from the humanities to ensure there are books on bookshelves, paintings on walls, and Shakespeare performed every Martian Friday? Should the new berm-building measures being taken to fight rising water levels around city edges include a budget for muralists to enhance the aesthetics? These may sound like silly questions, but if no one asks them, we’d be left with a blank, utilitarian world. Likewise, art needs science in order to advance because art has always benefitted from new knowledge and technologies produced by science. Picasso read books on mathematics and Dali read works by Freud. What if the Picasso’s and Einstein’s of today did more than read each other’s books and look at one another’s paintings? Again, the possibilities are endless.

In thinking about all of this I’m reminded of the infamous Voyager spacecraft that we launched in 1977. Voyager carries with it a golden record containing pertinent information about us and our planet. The double helix, diagrams of anatomy, animal sounds, and a map of our solar system are only a few of the numerous scientific data points that we provided to our potential alien receiver. But we also gave them Bach, Chinese chants, and Chuck Berry – because all of that, and more, is who we are. 

Gregory:  Both the arts and the sciences have a creative process. At the very least, it is beneficial for each to realize how the other utilizes its tools and methodologies to result in an outcome, and this is something that can easily happen in the short term. Each field brings a different perspective; leaps in innovation often come from viewing a subject in a different way. New insights can be reached by seeing how someone else outside of your field tries to understand it. These sorts of benefits are more long term. A new hybrid-like mindset can start to form once more collaborations and investigations take place, allowing for a different way of thinking and resulting in advancement of the fields sparked by these new perspectives.

Some of science’s preconceptions that are hard to shake are that it is stark, isolated, and robotic—the opposite of humanity and community. The arts can help to give a social context to science, to bring in the humanity to connect with those in society who don’t call themselves scientists. Similarly, art has a troublesome preconception that it is too ethereal and disconnected from reality. For those in society who don’t call themselves artists, science can help to bring a context they can relate to or that can ground them in the experience. More understanding of the nature and ideas in each field can be reached, especially by those outside the field. 

These investigations expose each field to new audiences—it exposes science-minded people to the arts, and likewise exposes arts-minded people to science. (By “audience” I mean those who would normally pay attention to an event or product, such as scientists going to a science lecture and dance patrons going to a dance performance.) I argue that this not only allows for greater reach of the desired outcome of the investigation but also enriches the members of the audience who experience something more than they would have normally.

This broadening of the audience for each field may also lead to an increase in typically underrepresented groups in each field, broadening the types of those who participate. More people of different backgrounds may be brought into each field by 1) being made aware of it and 2) seeing there is a place for them in a way they may not have seen before. Also, if there were a steady integration of arts and sciences throughout all education levels I believe there should be a positive effect on learning with students benefitting from the perspectives of each side. I can imagine a future where it would no longer be out of the ordinary to have these investigations and each field would be enriched by these continual experiences.

Reiko:  I’d like to think that one of the by-products of working with people in different disciplines is that it will make us more empathic individuals.  It will give us practice in developing greater capacity to see an issue from multiple points of view.  And that in turn will help us engage people we may disagree with on important policy issues.  Issues that can divide us, but are so critical that they affect us all – for instance, how do we address different cultural and value systems to live amongst each other or how do we ensure that people around the world have access to the benefits of scientific and technological progress.  

That concludes the Arts / Sciences Intersections Blog Forum.

I would like to thank all the panelists for their taking the time from their busy schedules to share their insights and thinking on this topic of keen importance to the nonprofit arts, and in particular, special thanks to  Bill O'Brien at the Endowment for helping me to organize this blogathon.  I am deeply appreciative of the panelist's participation in what I think has been an excellent beginning discussion of a complex topic that will very likely grow in importance to both the science and art sectors.  

Don't Quit

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Blogathon on the Intersections of Art and Science - Day 4

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

Day Four Question:
What obstacles do these collaborations face and how can they be better supported?  What kinds of research would help in soliciting that support?
Gregory:  Two main obstacles these collaborations face are a lack of support from closed-minded individuals and institutions and a lack of financial support. Those of us working at the intersection of the arts and science cannot become complacent and assume that everyone else realizes the importance of these investigations. I can imagine that some universities may not think these are worthwhile investigations, and may hold them against tenure-track professors in their tenure reviews. We must try to get others to understand the benefits of these activities. This includes being able to cite specific studies of these benefits. More research or evaluation can be done to record and/or measure the outcomes of these activities. That information, both qualitative and quantitative, contributes to the case to support these efforts. While analyses of successful projects funded by various mechanisms and individual agencies can be done, the National Academy of Sciences also could do a study of the other impacts these activities have, such as on education, for example. If the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation could have a combined initiative that jointly reviewed and funded awards then that would provide a powerful statement to which many close-minded individuals might pay attention. Aside from national funding agencies, foundations are places where support could be sought, especially those that are willing to think along these lines.

We must be able to present a clear case in order to be advocates. Our message must include successful outcomes, evidence of the advancement of both fields, and statements and evidence of the impacts that integrating these fields can have on other aspects such as education, understanding, broadening participation among underrepresented groups, and innovation.

Youngmoo:  The first obstacle is simply proximity and frequency of intersection. Collaborative opportunities involving artists and scientists are relatively few and far between. The ExCITe Center and similar entities are attempts at overcoming these, but each community needs to develop pathways that work best for the activities and assets of their local region to enable intersection and interaction.

Of course, potential sources of support for new endeavors (federal grants, foundations, and philanthropy) also tend to be over-focused and highly disciplinary. Funding organizations, for all their pronouncements to the contrary, are generally risk averse and cater to mature activities and long-established organizations. It's going to take a significant (expensive) effort to reshape global thinking on arts+science, so I believe it's going to require a great deal of support, meaning multiple investments at the scale of centers for the performing arts or medical research.

More generally, another obstacle to collaboration is the greater weight given to quantitative measures versus qualitative outcomes. There’s a tremendous allure to the quantitative, because it enables us to label one thing as "better" than another. Engineers (including myself) are never happier than when we’re “optimizing” something, which means we've identified some metric (or "objective function") to maximize or minimize. But we all know that metrics can be misleading, and there are myriad variables to consider during assessment. The arts provide exposure to problems for which there aren’t “right” answers (as is often the case in the sciences). There’s no one “right” answer for performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony--there are many great performances and recordings (and likely even more bad performances :-), but the most impactful part is the process of working collaboratively to develop a "solution" (performance). Having some facility with that process opens up new avenues for innovation.

This is an emerging area of research with some compelling studies. For example, there's Robert Root-Bernstein's work highlighting the correlation between Nobel Prize winners and arts participation and James Catteral's longitudinal studies of arts exposure highly correlated with academic achievement in at-risk youth. But correlation is not causation, and more detailed research on the relationship between arts participation and scientific innovation is certainly warranted.

Rieko:  Again, one of the realities with cross-disciplinary collaborations is that it takes time, especially for teams to learn how to work together effectively.  Putting experts in the same room does not make an expert team - especially not right away.  The complexity is compounded when people come from different schools of thought and are used to different approaches for inquiry or for problem solving.  Knowing what challenges are common in art + sciences, and what they should be aware of, will help teams better navigate these obstacles.   We need research to better understand what tools can be effective when obstacles in arts + science collaborations come up.  

Bill:   One of the primary obstacles facing these collaborations has to do with how streams of support for art and science has evolved in ways that are divided and soloed.  For example, on the federal level the NEA is authorized to fund projects based on artistic excellence and artistic merit, which works extremely well for most of the projects that compete for the Endowment’s funding.  In a similar way, the National Science Foundation is authorized to fund projects based on scientific merit and broader impacts.  Both agencies have seen a recent uptick in applications seeking support for projects that involve both art and science, which is encouraging.  However it can be a real challenge to assess these projects holistically when the expertise and authority of the panel is effectively set up to assess one half of the equation.  Private foundations that support art and science are often divided in similar ways.  But there are positive signs that both public and private funders are beginning to address these challenges.  NEA, NSF and NEH have convened a working group to investigate how they can more effectively invest in these intersections and the Mellon Foundation is currently investigating strategies to support higher education in ways that span across the sciences, arts and humanities.  The kind of research that could be conducted to help validate these transdisciplinary advances might focus on gathering evidence on how these efforts can advance impacts across a host of societal concerns, like health, education, the ecology and economic development.  This could validate investment in these areas for a broad number of stakeholders.

Lucinda:  While there has been great movement towards intersecting the arts and science communities, there still exist obstacles. These obstacles and ways to address them are:
Firmly-entrenched, discipline-based mindsets that have been in place for many years. The 19th century factory model of discrete disciplines and tasks is no longer effective in our highly-fluid, technology-based 21st century world. To address these discrepancies, children need to be trained from the earliest ages to look at disciplines from multiple perspectives, to see the world from a wholistic viewpoint, and to use that viewpoint to solve problems. Individuals of all ages need to work to view the world wholistilcally and to use the synthesis of these various viewpoints to solve problems innovatively
Discipline-based systems that foster division. While it is important for each discipline to have its own system and set of networks, it also is important for these systems and networks to become more porous and open to intersections that include the viewpoints and perspectives of other disciplines.

The research that can best support the intersections of these disciplines is that which rigorously looks at the applications of these intersections to vital creative and innovation thinking skills. The Innovation Collaborative is conducting the first research of its kind that looks at the impact of these intersections on creative and innovation thinking in K-12 and out-of-school-time settings.

Julia:   The obstacle which science/art collaborators most commonly face is funding. For the artists, funding is hard to come by no matter what you’re doing, science-related or not. For scientists, while there is a bit more funding to go around, it is most always funneled through an institution, and for a specific area of research which is most likely involved in the treatment of diseases. It is an unfortunate reality that a lack of funding makes the exploration of new ideas more difficult, especially those ideas whose end goal is unknown. The National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts are the two largest US-based grant giving organizations for the sciences and arts, but their funding is largely single-disciplinary and already struggles to cover their disciplines alone – perhaps this calls for a new funding agency altogether.

While it is a small amount, SciArt Center grants two members per year funds for their transdiciplinary work. One project we recently funded was a scientific study that utilizes the synesthetic paintings of an artist in order to better understand and quantify olfactory-visual synesthesia.

Thank you panelists.

The final question tomorrow asks how might the advances at these intersections benefit both sectors and the public at large - in both the short and long term.

Have a great day.

Don't Quit

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Blogathon on the Intersections of Art and Science - Day 3

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

Reminder:  Please send me your nominations for inclusion on this year's Top 50 Most Powerful and Influential leaders in the U.S. nonprofit arts.

Day Three Question:

Where are the two communities already merging and working together and where could they work together more effectively in the future?  What are the next steps?

Lucinda:  The arts and science communities already are working together on the national level, as evidenced by conversations between the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Science Foundation. On some state levels, there are intersections between these disciplines in state education agencies and in policy circles. On regional and local levels, these two communities are joining to form coalitions and even whole schools that are based on these intersections. In the museum world, both art and science museums are reaching out to the other discipline to enrich their programming and the understanding of their own collections and disciplines.

While these are great steps towards intersecting the arts and science communities, there are many steps yet to take. These include research that looks at models and the most effective applications of these intersections to a variety of purposes. The arts/science intersections are not a one-size-fits-all. The beauty of these intersections is that they allow for a great degree of flexibility and adaptation to specific purposes. Research into the effectiveness of these applications is of the greatest importance.

The most important next steps are developing a firm research-based underpinning of the power of these intersections in education, industry, policy, and many other areas. This research not only would provide a firm foundation for this movement, but it also would point to other important areas for research.

Gregory:  Universities that encourage interdisciplinary work are places where these intersections can easily happen, and do. Geographic locations that have a high density of both artists and scientists also are ripe areas for these collaborations due to the number of possible interactions, especially if there are events in those cities that can highlight these activities. For example, Washington, DC, has a few recurring events that draw focus to this intersection, and allow for the communities to mix and mingle. One of these is DASER (DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous), hosted by the Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences. This is actually related to LASERs (replace “DC” with “Leonardo”) set up by Leonardo, the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology. These are influential in not only showcasing people involved in the intersections, but also in bringing together like-minded individuals to spark collaboration.

These communities with dense artist and scientist populations are great starts, but more communities could be encouraged to have events, especially if there are natural places like science centers, large art galleries, or museums. Other universities could be focuses of these interactions, and interuniversity collaborations could happen between arts and science institutions. Large science facilities which have infrastructure could have artist-in residence programs. For example, both Fermi National Lab (Fermilab) in the US and the large physics facility CERN in Switzerland which houses the Large Hadron Collider that found the Higgs Boson, have such programs. Dance choreographer Gilles Jobin was one of the two first artists-in-residence at CERN when the program began in 2012. He and his dancers interacted with the scientists and explored the facilities, and he ultimately created a dance work from the experiences there called Quantum. This opened up new worlds of experience to both the scientific community at CERN and the greater arts community once Jobin’s piece was performed on tour. Fermilab’s program began just at the end of 2014 and I feel they should be applauded for beginning it. Hopefully it will inspire other science facilities to do the same. Arts institutions could also think about having a scientist-in-residence as a complementary program. Perhaps some do, but I am not aware of them at this time.

By establishing centers of focus across the country, the infrastructure can be laid for increased resources, opportunities, and support.

Bill:  One recent example took place at the Nevada Museum of Art-Center for Art+Environment in June in Reno Nevada.  The Museum hosted a workshop supported by the National Science Foundation on “Perspectives: Examining Complex Ecological Dynamics through Arts, Humanities and Science Integration”.  Janet Brown from Grantmakers in the Arts also attended and wrote about the convening here.  The primary aim of this workshop was to advance the integration of the arts and humanities with science to address complex ecological and social-ecological challenges. One of the most compelling themes that emerged throughout these conversations related to how certain artists working at these intersections, like eco-art pioneers Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison can function in these art/sci investigations not so much as an “interpreter” or “translator” of someone else’s science, but as a “creators” of new work that is inspired by science and that can illuminate new lines of inquiry and meaning in both scientific and artistic realms.   Raising visibility and awareness of this type of work could be a great next step for promoting improved collaboration among art and science in the future.  Another example would be the Network for Science, Engineering, Art and Design (SEAD), which sprung out of the first summit convened by the NEA and the National Science Foundation and seeks to harness assets at these intersections to make advances in areas like culture, economic development, research, education and collaboration.  

Julia:  Years ago, coming into the science/art scene, I became immediately aware of programs and institutions such as Symbiotic, Leonardo/ISAST, the CERN artists residency program, Arts Catalyst… the list goes on, and is very international in nature. When I came to New York a few years ago I realized there wasn’t an organization here like those listed above, which is why I started SciArt Center. In short, we bring scientists and artists together for a common cause through our online platform and our monthly events series which look at science through the lens of art. In cultivating this community, we help connections form across the disciplines. We also just launched a virtual residency program entitled “The Bridge”(in honor of the late C.P. Snow) where we are going to track the collaborative processes between three scientist and artist pairs – the first program of its kind. I think that the next step, for us and other like-minded organizations and initiatives, is simply to grow and gain traction. It has been very encouraging over the past few years to see other organizations pop-up all over the world that address the science/art intersection in different ways – evidence that interest in this intersection is truly on the rise.

Rieko:  There are organizations that have art + science in their DNA – places like Exploratorium and New York Hall of Science were intentionally set up without disciplinary divisions.  At these organizations, which focus on informal science education, they use a blended approach of science and art/design.  Perhaps not surprisingly, they have a public-facing mission and by necessity, their work needs to speak to an audience with a wide range of backgrounds.  When you think about the “end users” (in this case, the audience they need to reach), you often need to step outside what you already know and to experiment with new ways to carry out your work.   These are some of the places where the alignment of arts + science seem to have found a natural home.  

We need to make further progress at the higher education level.  Universities, in particular, are organized into different disciplines and as a result, disciplines that are “far apart” rarely have ways to connect with each other.  This is manifested in both research and education and how we train students to think and create.  

For the most part, the incentives and reward structures like tenure and promotion for faculty are not geared towards collaboration.   Addressing this issue is complex and not an easy fix.

Youngmoo:  The maker movement and the rapid proliferation of maker spaces and arts+tech collaboratives are examples of the communities starting to find one another. There are also a number of arts-related hackathons (intense 24-48 hour events of rapid prototyping and development) across the world that create a venue for intersection.

In Philadelphia, our cultural organizations are pursuing a variety of efforts to bridge between the worlds of arts and science (and technology). I have worked with the Philadelphia Orchestra for several years on LiveNote, a smartphone app that provides program notes synchronized with live performances. This past season, the system was available for select concerts. I also had the privilege of taking my sabbatical with Opera Philadelphia, serving as Resident Technologist to explore ways of better incorporating technology in the development of new operatic works. Based in part on this experience, the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is now offering a small grant to support short technical residencies at member organizations. A potential next step would be to connect with other arts+tech communities nationwide to share ideas, outcomes, and best practices.

Another prominent example is the upcoming 2015 National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAFKI) Conference on Art and Science, Engineering, and Medicine Frontier Collaborations. NAFKI is a program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, with support from the W.M. Keck Foundation, to catalyze interdisciplinary research. This is the first year the focus of the conference has included art, and it would be great to see more prominent science and technology organizations emphasizing the importance of research collaboration with the arts.

Thank you panelists.

Tomorrow's question asks what obstacles stand in the way of expanding and perfecting work between the two sectors and what research do we need.

Have a great day.

Don't Quit

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

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Blogathon on the Intersections of Art and Science - Day 1

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

NOTE:  I got a number of feedback emails from the announcement last week of this week's Blogathon Forum on the Intersections of Art and Science, and I would like to ask those people if they would share the news of efforts and projects already underway in our field in this area - with which they are familiar - by clicking on the blog logo, going to the site, clicking on the Comment line and entering a comment with descriptions and links to these projects.  AND I would like to encourage others out there who know of further efforts being made in the area to likewise share that information and those resource links. Thank you.

Here are the bios of the panelists participating in the week long blogathon forum on the Intersections of Art and Science:

Note:  Kamal Sinclair will not be participating as previously announced.

Rieko Yajima is a biochemist with interests that lie at the intersection of science and society—which include design and policy.  She has organized national symposia on these topics, from New Concepts in Integrating Arts and Science Research for a Global Knowledge Society, to Synergy in STEM + Arts:  Catalyzing US Innovation and Competitiveness.  She has given talks on the nexus between scientific research and design thinking at Stanford University’s and the Design Principles and Practices Conference.  For the past eight years, she has worked for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in Washington, DC, where she advises the scientific community on ways to strengthen research and innovation and in the use of informed decision-making for funding research.  In 2015, Yajima was elected to the Global Young Academy, a rallying point for outstanding young scientists from around the world to come together to address topics of global importance.  She holds a doctorate degree in integrative biosciences from Penn State University and served as a science policy fellow at the National Academy of Sciences.

Julia Buntaine's work is inspired by and based on Neuroscience, the scientific study of the brain. Born in Massachusetts, Buntaine attained her BA and Certificate in Cognitive Neuroscience from Hampshire College, her post-baccalaureate certificate in studio art from Maryland Institute College of Art, and her MFA of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts. Buntaine has exhibited nationally and internationally including shows in Amherst, New York City, Baltimore, Seattle, Madison, and Toronto. Buntaine is also Executive Director at SciArt Center, and founder and editor-in-chief of the online science-based art magazine, SciArt in America. Buntaine currently lives and works in New York City.

Youngmoo Kim is Director of the Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center and Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Drexel University. He received his Ph.D. in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT in 2003 and also holds Master's degrees in Electrical Engineering and Music (Vocal Performance Practice) from Stanford University as well as a B.S. in Engineering and a B.A. in Music from Swarthmore College. His research group, the Music and Entertainment Technology Laboratory (MET-lab) focuses on the machine understanding of audio, particularly for music information retrieval. Other areas of active research at MET-lab include human-machine interfaces and robotics for expressive interaction, analysis-synthesis of sound, and K-12 outreach for engineering, science, and mathematics education.

Youngmoo also has extensive experience in music performance, including 8 years as a member of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the chorus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He is a former music director of the Stanford Fleet Street Singers, and has performed in productions at American Musical Theater of San Jose and SpeakEasy Stage Company (Boston). He is a member of Opera Philadelphia’s newly-formed American Repertoire Council.

Gregory Mack, Ph.D., is an astrophysicist, modern dancer, and currently an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow placed at the National Science Foundation (NSF). As an AAAS Fellow at NSF he has led several science communication initiatives in collaboration with the NSF Physics Division and the NSF Office of Legislative and Public Affairs. He also is the founder and co-chair of the AAAS Fellow Affinity Group STArt (Science, Technology, and Art) which brings Fellows together to address the intersection of art, science, and policy through various mechanisms. Prior to the Fellowship, Mack was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Ohio Wesleyan University, and he earned his Ph.D. in Physics (Theoretical Astrophysics) from The Ohio State University in 2008. He has been a dancer with the modern dance company Hixon Dance since 2007 and has created works integrating science and dance. [NOTE: As a Fellow, Mack is not an NSF employee and is not authorized to speak on behalf of the agency. Statements here are his own and not those of NSF.]

Lucinda Presley is the founder, Chair, and Executive Director of the Innovation Collaborative. The Collaborative is a DC-based coalition of national arts, science, and humanities institutions that work in partnership with higher education. This coalition promotes creative and innovation thinking through researching, convening key stakeholders and researchers, and disseminating information about effective practices at these intersections in K-12 and out-of-school-time settings.

Ms. Presley also is Executive Director of ICEE (Institute where Creativity Empowers Education) Success, which uses arts, humanities, and innovation thinking skills to promote engagement, learning, century problem-solving skills in science, technology, engineering, and math ( STEM). She works with partners in Texas, nationally, and internationally to develop school and museum programming, write curriculum, and train educators. These partners include NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in DC, the University of Texas at Dallas Center for Brain Health, and school districts. She also works with these partners to develop pop-up museums and associated programming.

With over 25 years’ experience at the arts/science intersections, she has led STEAM education initiatives and teacher/artist training for a science museum, an art museum, and a national arts provider. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and has been an adjunct instructor of art at a community college for over 17 years.

Bill O'Brien was appointed Senior Advisor for Program Innovation for the Endowment in 2009, responsible for exploring, examining and identifying innovative and emerging practices, programs and endeavors in the arts that are transformative and potentially worthy of federal government support or acknowledgement. In this capacity, he has served as the agency's lead on the Walter Reed/NEA Healing Arts Partnership (including Operation Homecoming) investigating the role of the arts in helping to heal military service members recovering from traumatic brain injuries and psychological health issues, the State Department's "Declaration of Learning" initiative and various activities of interest to the agency at the intersection of arts, science, technology and the humanities.

Prior to these appointments, Bill was named the NEA's Director of Theater and Musical Theater in July 2006, where he designed and directed national leadership initiatives, promoted partnerships to advance the theater field, and managed the review process for theater and musical theater applications. In 2007, he designed and initiated the NEA National New Play Development program—administered by Arena Stage, which featured the NEA Outstanding New American Play and Distinguished New Play Development selections.

Before joining the NEA, he served for seven years as producing director and managing director for Deaf West Theater (DWT) where he received a Tony and a Drama Desk nomination for producing the Broadway sign language production of Big River and received three Ovation Award nominations for his work on the production of Big River at Deaf West (as producer, sound designer and lead actor). That production went on to win three Best Musical awards (Ovation, LADCC and Backstage Garland) and the cast of Big River was awarded the 2004 Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theater. Other productions he produced for Deaf West include A Streetcar Named Desire (Ovation Award—Best Play) and Oliver! (Ovation Award—Best Musical). He has appeared in Deaf West productions of True West (Austin) and Big River (Backstage West Garland Award for Lead Actor, Helen Hayes Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor).

His advocacy efforts on behalf of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act of the U.S. Department of Education helped garner Deaf West Theatre the Secretary of Health and Human Services Highest Recognition Award for “bridging the gap between the deaf and hearing worlds through theatre.”

In addition, O'Brien has served as executive vice president on the executive board of the National Alliance for Music Theatre and as a task force member, conference speaker, and grant panelist with Theatre Communications Group, both national service organization for the theater and musical theater fields.

O'Brien also performed onstage in 48 states in numerous national touring and regional productions, was an American College Theatre Festival Irene Ryan Acting Competition National Finalist and has recurred in all seven seasons as Kenny (Marlee Matlin's voice/interpreter) on NBC's Emmy Award- and Peabody Award-winning series The West Wing. teacher/artist training for a science museum, an art museum, and a national arts provider. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and has been an adjunct instructor of art at a community college for over 17 years.

Here is the first question posed to the panel:

What forces are driving emerging energy at art / science intersections?  What are people hoping to achieve here?  What do you see as being possible to achieve?

Rieko:  What’s interesting and exciting is that I see connections between art/design + science being driven largely at the grass-roots level by practitioners.  The arts + sci movement isn’t being mandated from the top; rather, it’s a bottoms-up movement for which our systems and institutions may not fully understand nor know how to adapt to yet.  These practitioners are driven by their own curiosity and interests, either through collaboration with those outside of their field or by drawing on their own talents in both arts and science.  A second driver is the awareness that creativity and innovation is spurred by bridging perspectives from multiple disciplines.  Ultimately, I would like to see these efforts lead to better understanding about how we create – and share - new knowledge, especially in the sciences.    

Julia:  I think that most people, whether they come to it on their own or are introduced to it by another, think the idea of art and science interacting as utterly refreshing.  The experience of having to choose science over art (or vice versa) in college is an unfortunate and common one. While I doubt that reforming our approach to college education will occur within the near future (I was lucky to attend one college which did – Hampshire College), having to choose one major over another does not stamp out the guitarist in an RNA biologist, the neuroscience-lover in a conceptual artist. Given our breadth of abilities as humans it should not be surprising to hear about someone who is a neuroscientist by day and fiction writer by night, but it is. The idea of being able to pursue art and science concurrently, and the idea of art and science working together, opens up life in a wonderful way because it reminds people they do not have to limit themselves. In this way, the possibilities are endless.

Youngmoo Kim:  As much as our world has been profoundly changed through science and technology, some of the most impactful advances (aortic stents, computer graphics, and the iPhone, just to name a few) have come through multidisciplinary collaboration between the arts and sciences (and engineering). Conversely, I think more and more people in science and engineering  feel that our research and education efforts in these fields have become too disciplinary and too siloed. Most professional incentives in these fields favor incremental or derivative work, so there are large impediments to taking the risks necessary to achieve something truly groundbreaking. As a result, there's growing interest in art+science collaborations to broaden perspectives in the interest of fueling scientific advancement and innovation.

Art reflects the world we live in, and science and technology increasingly permeate our lives. More and more artists and arts organizations are incorporating science and technology into their works, at times quite intentionally, and other times because it's already a natural part of their process. There's certainly strong interest from arts institutions in employing technology to broaden audiences, but I think there's an even wider gulf between arts administrators and  technologists. It always sounds easier than it actually is, and there are few best practices for the appropriate use of technology to engage audiences at exhibits and performances. We still have a lot of work to do!

Overall, I hope through art+science collaborations we can achieve a deeper understanding of both that demonstrates there's not as much distance between them as is generally thought. Perhaps we can gain further insight into both the artistic and scientific processes and find ways to combine and leverage each to greater effect.

Gregory Mack:  As an art+science “hybrid” (astrophysicist/modern dancer), I have actively sought out ways to combine my two interests and explore what it means to operate in that space. I and others like me have our own internal forces that drive us to produce work that integrates both our passions and unites our different perspectives on the world. For those like me and also for others who are grounded securely in one field but have an interest in the other, I think the internet has played a huge role. Scientists can see others like them who have worked with artists, and artists have seen examples where their peers have collaborated with scientists.  Even though I exist in both the arts and science spaces, I still needed some instigation to propel me to advance my initial inklings. In other words, I had some ideas but once I realized a community existed, I felt encouraged to explore. This exposure takes away the barrier of thinking you’re the only one and realizing that such things are possible. However, that is still an internal force, pushing someone to realize their curiosity about the matter.

External forces are rarer. There are some universities that actively push for interdisciplinary collaboration and some organizations put out calls for projects. Federal agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Science Foundation have held summits on the topic and funded a relatively small number of initiatives at this intersection. This has caused more people to become aware of these opportunities. As more organizations begin to encourage exploration, suddenly a whole new realm of possibility can seem to open for the “creatives” – a group to which both artists and scientists belong.

In working at this intersection, whether as a hybrid or otherwise, meaningful results are desired on each side. Is the art more than just a tool? Is the science more than just a subject? Successful integrations would create something that would be more than it would be if just a scientist were working on it or if only an artist were. It would be something exciting that would end up teaching something unintended to each side.

What is possible? The endlessness of creativity allows many things to be possible at this intersection. It is important to realize what one side can beneficially offer the other. For example, science can provide motivation, stylistic elements, and context to dance. Dances can be made utilizing scientific concepts, processes, methodologies, and concepts. On the other hand, dance can give science a visual, physical, and social context and connection. Each field has a way of revealing new ideas and connections in the other. Expounding on this, there are ways to use dance and dancers to gain insight into scientific concepts, ways to incorporate science or technology into dances, ways to incorporate social science studies into dance performances and methods…the list goes on. If you have the right collection of like-minded individuals, quite a lot can happen. For example, I recently was able to debut a math-inspired modern dance called “Iteratia” at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) thanks to The Director of Cultural Programs of the NAS, J.D. Talasek. This dance, which I performed and created collaboratively with Sarah Hixon (artistic director of Hixon Dance) and Amanda Whiteman (artistic director of GroundShare Arts Alliance), was only able to happen because of the opportunity provided by Talasek, the resources provided by the NAS, and the ability of Hixon and Whiteman to come together with me and work to make a dance with the use and inspiration of a mathematical process. The right combination of opportunity, resources, and talents can yield many possibilities.

Lucinda:  There are several important forces currently driving the emerging arts/science intersections. These include: 
  • The national need for a workforce that can innovate in all areas
  • The exponential growth of technology that is driving awareness of the importance of these intersections while at the same time offering growing possibilities for the enhancement of these intersections
  • The growing body of arts data concerning education that demonstrates the value of the arts in promoting important student dispositions and learning capabilities. This data also points to the importance of the intersections of the arts with other disciplines. 
  • The increasing amount of anecdotal information in education that points to the importance of the arts/science intersections in increasing subject engagement, understanding, and learning
  • The emerging findings in neuroscience that support the importance of viewing problems, phenomena, and everyday activities through a variety of lens and that also support the importance of taking the synthesis of various viewpoints and disciplines into creating novel solutions.

Through the art/science intersections, people hope to achieve:
  • Enhancement of both the arts and science fields through deepening an understanding of each. This is accomplished through looking at each discipline with different lens, which opens the doors for innovation thinking and novel solutions.
  • A more wholistic view of the world and phenomena by erasing the age-old boundaries between disciplines to develop a greater, more realistic world view.
  • An innovation-thinking populace in all demographics and disciplines
  • Greater self-efficacy for individuals.
What is possible to achieve? There are important possibilities. Among them are:
  • In education, a model for collaboration between the arts and sciences that can provide a model for collaboration among all disciplines
  • Generations of students who are more effective problem-solvers both in and out of school
  • Greater student interest in learning and in staying in school
  • An increased use of these intersections in arts and science museums to deepen understanding of the museum collections and to foster creative and innovation thinking skills in museum audiences of all ages
  • In all fields, a more wholistic view of the world that promotes intersections between various disciplines
  • In individuals of all demographics, an enhanced world view and sense of self-efficacy, resulting in a workforce with an increased ability to innovate.
Bill O'Brien:  My favorite playwright, Eugene O’Neil, described his life’s work as an effort to explain the mysterious forces behind life that shape human destiny.  That’s an enormous challenge to jump out of bed to confront every morning! He conducted his artistic inquiries across the disruptive eras of World War I and World War II, when there was a profound need for making sense and meaning of the “new normal” of our rattled world.  I suspect there is a similar force driving emerging energies today at the intersections of art, science and humanities.  We also live in a time of great disruption, and images of our present and future are filled with mystery, promise and peril.  The sense of urgency surrounding all of this can create a strong sense of mission and purpose for people converging at these intersections to combine forces in an all-hands-on-deck approach to confront the biggest challenges and opportunities we face today.  

As an example of how these synergies can inform and catalyze new contexts and approaches; the NEA recently released an executive report from a working group the agency co-convened with the Santa Fe Institute that brought together thought-leaders from psychology, neurobiology, neuro-technology, education and the arts to conduct a transdisciplinary investigation into “How Creativity Works in the Brain”.  These experts were assembled from across these disciplines in the hopes of gaining a new and broader understanding of how creativity functions both in the brain and across these various domains.  Questions pursued included how artists working across multiple disciplines could help shape our understanding of the creative process and illuminate new insights on how creativity could be studied more effectively.  As mentioned in the report: "Imagine the potential for our nation's health, education, culture, and productivity if we were able to truly understand the anatomy of our 'aha' moments, and how they can be nurtured, optimized, and deployed,"

Thank you panelists.

Tomorrow's question asks how we can scale up the intersections between the arts and sciences.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit

Reminder:  Please send me your nominations for inclusion on this year's Top 50 Most Powerful and Influential leaders in the U.S. nonprofit arts.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Intersections of Art and Science

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

Reminder:  Please send me your nominations for inclusion on this year's Top 50 Most Powerful and Influential leaders in the U.S. nonprofit arts.  

Upcoming Blogathon Forum on the Intersection of Art and Science begins next Monday, August 10th.

For decades America has worshipped at the altar of science and technology.  Going back to the development of the atom bomb and the race, post Sputnik, to land on the moon first, the country has been obsessed with maintaining superiority in the sciences - from engineering and physics to biology and chemistry.  Our economic well being and future has long been seen resting in the citadel of scientific advancement.  And in the past decade, science -- as manifested in technology -- has governed not just our lives, but the whole planet.   The doubts, hesitations and angry rejoinders at the ungodliness of science by evangelical Christians and other religions across the nation and around the world notwithstanding, STEM is the rallying cry not only of business and government, but of education.

We have labored intensely to add the arts to make it STEAM - focusing our limited energies on the education field as a place we might have the maximum input in making creativity a part of the knowledge and experience that we in America, and the human species in general, will pin the nation's and humanity's future on.

In the past five years there has been considerable expansion of  the conversation about extant intersections by and between the arts and the sciences - and what might be possible in those intersections.  Indeed, there are growing numbers of university courses on the subject, increasing numbers of talks, seminars, meetings and summits that have as their theme the very subject of the arts / science intersections. And, increasingly the relationship between the two is being accepted and moreover, investigated, explored and embraced.  By and large scientists "get it", and understand full well the direct relationship between art and science and the potential in that relationship.  Very often, business and policy makers are the ones who gloss over the relationship's importance and fail to see and appreciate how each sector complements the other.

From the neurology of creativity, to the role of art in explaining and understanding discoveries and basic knowledge; from the spark of creativity's link to the development of theories of how and why the physical world behaves as it does; from imagination's role in innovation, to the effect of creativity on aging and health, the arts are increasingly intertwined with the various sciences and technologies.

Not all of the impetus for this sea change in the former siloization and compartmentalization of knowledge is coming from the arts and the creative people; it is coming from the scientists and technologists, from the engineers and the physicists - and we in the arts are learning that many of those people also don the hats of artists and creatives too.  Scientists and engineers are ever more frequently coming to the defense of the arts (click here for an article on scientists and engineers who rallied to the defense of the arts in the U.K. after an idiotic remark by education secretary Nicky Morgan, who said last year that choosing to study arts subjects could “hold [students] back for the rest of their lives”.

As far back as 2008, an article in the Journal of Psychology of Science and Technology, concluded:

"Nobel laureates were significantly more likely to engage in arts and crafts avocations than Royal Society and National Academy of Sciences members, who were in turn significantly more likely than Sigma Xi members and the U.S. public.  Scientists and their biographers often commented on the utility of their avocations as stimuli for their science.  The utility of arts and crafts training for scientists may have important public policy and educational implications in light of the marginalization of these subjects in most curricula."
Indeed, the article opens with this:
"In 1878, J.H. van Hoff, who would become the first Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry (1901), proposed that scientific imagination in correlated with creative activities outside of science." 

And concludes with:
"The data shows very significant relationships between success as a scientist and evidence of adult arts and crafts avocations."

The relationship of the arts to the high tech computer revolution is easily documented.  From the Xerox PARC laboratory - where both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs saw the future of the computer and basically stole (borrowed) the design for the computer and the mouse interface, to Jobs' application of design and beauty as essential to the product - art and creativity were at every important step in the development of the technology that has changed the world.

In an interview by Linda Naiman with John Seely Brown the chief scientist for Xerox in the 1990's, when the PARC lab in what is now Silicon Valley was pioneering the technology that became the home computer revolution, Brown talks about the importance of the PAIR (Parc Artist in Residence) program at Xerox.

"There are three ways I look at [the impact of an art experience]. One is the notion that engaging in these types of activities evoke deeper responses, deeper emotions. It brings forth many of the tacitly held beliefs and assumptions that you have. So think of it as evocative of the tacit knowledge.
The second is that focused conversations are built and fused together around evocative objects that concern problems that the researcher has on his or her mind. I have said very often, it was the researcher that had the real problem, but the interaction with the artist actually made a big difference. Now that’s a complex interplay, ‘cause it takes over; it’s like a conversation that unfolds over many months.
The third concerns the power of simplicity. Simplicity prior to complexity doesn’t mean much. But simplicity, after you pass through the wall of complexity, after you have marinated in a fully nuanced reading of the situation and then rendering it in very simple ways is extraordinarily powerful.
And so, my favourite saying is that “Picasso can say more with five lines than most of us can say writing an entire book.” Picasso does not traffic in commas, and parentheses. When you’re doing a painting or sketch, you do not have qualifiers. You have to be crystal clear about matters, and that’s one of the beauties of art as a primary language, primary in that you can’t make caveats and qualifiers around everything. Also note that the image you construct is meant to be an evocative object for both you and others. You’re conversing with yourself as well with others."
Today, there are artists and scientists pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery and artistic understanding yet further in complex ways.  Click here, for example, where Professor JoAnn Kuchera-Morin explains the development of the AlloSphere, an immersive 3D environment that allows scientists to experience their data on a sensorial level.  Experiments are happening all over in the intersections of art and science and we have just begun to scratch the surface.

Walter Issacson, Steven Jobs biographer, in a 2014 National Endowment for the Humanities Jefferson lecture noted about Einstein:

"His mother, an accomplished pianist, also gave him a gift at around the same time, one that likewise would have an influence throughout his life. She arranged for him to take violin lessons. After being exposed to Mozart’s sonatas, music became both magical and emotional to him.
Soon he was playing Mozart duets with his mother accompanying him on the piano. “Mozart’s music is so pure and beautiful that I see it as a reflection of the inner beauty of the universe itself,” he later told a friend.[ix] “Of course,” he added in a remark that reflected his view of math and physics as well as of Mozart, “like all great beauty, his music was pure simplicity.”[x]
Music was no mere diversion. On the contrary, it helped him think. “Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or faced a difficult challenge in his work,” said his son, “he would take refuge in music and that would solve all his difficulties.”[xi] The violin thus proved useful during the years he lived alone in Berlin wrestling with general relativity. “He would often play his violin in his kitchen late at night, improvising melodies while he pondered complicated problems,” a friend recalled. “Then, suddenly, in the middle of playing, he would announce excitedly, ‘I’ve got it!’ As if by inspiration, the answer to the problem would have come to him in the midst of music.
He had an artist’s visual imagination. He could visualize how equations were reflected in realities. As he once declared, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
We are only beginning to explore and understand the relationships between art and science and the many levels on which those relationships operate.  The highly fertile field of arts and aging / healing is but one aspect of the arts / science intersection, and this arena is critically important to us.  Indeed, I suspect that in the not too distant future, we won't describe the relationship between the arts and science as an intersection - two separate and diverse disciplines that occasionally cross at various points - but rather parallel lanes that share the same highway - working in tandem as the norm.

The subject fascinates me, and it equally fascinates Bill O'Brien, the Senior Advisor for Innovation to the Chairman at the National Endowment for the Arts, who has been at the forefront in our field in exploring the subject.  Click here for an article authored by Bill in last year.

Bill and I have been working at organizing a Blogathon Forum on the subject of the Intersection of the Arts and Science, and last month extended invitations to a half dozen people in the scientific / arts field to join Bill in responding to five questions, the answers to which I will post on this blog, one per day, beginning next Monday, August 10th.

Here are the panelists who accepted the invitation:

Rieko Yajima -  American Association for the Advancement of Science

Young Moo Kim - Scientist / Musician and Director of Drexel's ExCITe Center

Julia Buntaine, editor in chief of "SciArt in America"

Kamal Sinclair - Co-Director of Sundance's "New Frontier"

Lucinda Pressely - the Innovation Collaborative

Gregory Mack - American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Science and Technology Policy Fellow, National Science Foundation

Bill O'Brien - Senior Advisor for Innovation to the Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts

I hope you will follow along next week as this distinguished group of leaders working at the intersections of art and science talk about the future of those intersections and what they mean.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit