Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Blogathon on the Intersections of Art and Science - Day 3

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

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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