Starling flight paths
A recent story in the online news and technology magazine Mashable features time-lapse videos by Film/Animation/Video Department Head Dennis Hlynsky 74 FAV, pointing out their connection to RISD’s STEM to STEAM initiative. His work highlights “what a partnership between the arts and the sciences could mean for inquiry in both fields,” notes Mashable. And Cape Cod NPR affiliate WCAI concurs, having visited RISD to discuss STEAM with Director of Government Relations Babette Allina, who shared Hlynsky’s explorations as an example of STEAM at work.
Duck wending across the water over time
Hlynsky’s videos use Adobe After Effects to track the movements of individual creatures within larger groups. A swirl of starlings in his Murmuration of Starlings piece, for example, reads like a map with the paths of each bird plotted out in space. “I’m not making a film,” he says, “but conducting an observation over time.”
Gulls in flight
Mashable also spoke to Neal Overstrom, director of the Nature Lab, who notes that scientists studying wildlife could use Hlynsky’s work to further their research. “Art and science are complementary modes of inquiry,” he says. “They help us understand the world.” And as Vice Provost Carol Strohecker points out in the same story, the videos allow us to study the animals captured on film while at the same time appreciating the elegance of their movements.
Assistant Professor of Foundation Studies Stefanie Pender MFA 09 GL is showing work through February 27 in Cloudy is the stuff of stones, a solo exhibition at the Yashar Gallery in Brooklyn. A 2009–10 Fulbright fellow, Pender moves easily between contemporary and traditional media, with her latest body of work reflecting the scientific formulas of 16th-century Italian glassmaker/alchemist Antonio Neri.
“In the endeavor to expedite natural phenomena, time and space is compressed using empirical approaches of craft and chemistry,” the artist explains. “This work involved mining and refining minerals using early scientific methodologies for emulating earthly phenomena.”
Just in time for the start of spring semester, Ryan Murphy 15 ID returned from a whirlwind trip to Mexico City, where he participated in the 89plus Americas Marathon: Autoconstrucción. The one-day marathon event for global artists/innovators born in or after 1989 took place last Saturday at the über-contemporary Museo Jumex in conjunction with Zona Maco, Mexico City’s annual contemporary art fair.
“89plus invited me to be a part of their project/organization and speak at the event,” Murphy explains. “The ‘marathon’ brought together young artists from all over the Americas, as well established artists such as Yoko Ono and Abraham Cruzvillegas.”
Murphy, who earned a Maharam Fellowship last summer to work at the World Economic Forum, spoke about “the need for artists and designers to expand beyond our traditional scope to affect broader business and policy decisions,” he says. “I referenced my work with the WEF and Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group, as well as the STEM to STEAM movement in the US and the need to create more opportunity for more artists and designers across the Americas.”
Babette Allina (above left) at last winter’s Congressional STEAM Caucus on Capitol Hill.
Babette Allina, RISD’s director of Government Relations, is quoted in Turning STEM into STEAM, a short piece that aired on Houston’s NPR station (KUHF-FM) on Monday. She admits to being a bit surprised that the STEAM concept has gotten so much traction nationwide, but notes that “it’s very much grassroots-based.” Allina also speculates that STEAM may be resonating with so many people because studio-engendered skills like critical thinking and making are becoming increasingly more valued as workforce needs shift in the 21st century.
At last week’s Care New England event on health care and design, medical professionals and designers heard from RISD students and alumni about some of the latest innovations and trends in this growing field.
RISD’s Career Center Director Greg Victory, conference organizer Michael Esordi 91 GD and Care New England CEO Sandy Coletta compare notes at the conference.
Organized by Michael Esordi 91 GD, manager of digital marketing at Care New England, Collaboration=Innovation focused on the work of Elio Icaza Milson 15 ID, Amy Goldfeder MID 13 and Ximedica CIO and co-founder Aidan Petrie MID 85.
Starting tomorrow – Thursday, August 29 at 2 pm (EST) – the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is hosting a three-part series of Google+ Hangouts on Air (open to the public) to illustrate “how the sciences, arts and humanities together respond to challenges and spur innovation.”
Called 21st Century daVincis: How the Humanities and STEM Intersect, tomorrow’s discussion features:
- Ed Ayers, president of the University of Richmond
- Cathy Davidson, member of the National Council on the Humanities
- Bess Evans, public engagement ddvisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
- Danielle Carnival, senior policy advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
On Tuesday, September 10 at 2 pm the next NEH Hangout – called From Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs: Innovation from the Arts, Humanities and STEM – connects directly with RISD since it focuses on STEM to STEAM and “how NEH, NEA and IMLS projects reflect the charge to integrate the arts and STEM.” This one features:
- John Maeda, president of Rhode Island School of Design
- Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR 1), Congressional STEAM Caucus Co-Chair
- Congressman Aaron Schock (IL 18), Congressional STEAM Caucus Co-Chair
- Perry Collins, National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Digital Humanities Program Officer
- Mary Downs, National Endowment for the Humanities, Division of Preservation and Access Senior Program Officer
- Bill O’Brien, National Endowment for the Arts Senior Advisor for Program Innovation
- Helen Wechsler, Institute of Museum and Library Services Supervisory Grants Management Specialist
The third and final NEH Hangout in the series takes place on Monday, September 23 at 2 pm and is called Following Galileo: The Humanities and Sciences in the Classroom. This one features:
- Cathy Davidson, member of the National Council on the Humanities,
- Carol Peters, National Endowment for the Humanities Director of EDSITEment
- Maria Sosa, senior program officer at the American Association for the Advancement of Science
You can follow all of the hangouts on the NEH’s Office of Congressional Affairs Google+ site and if you’re live tweeting, use #STEMandHumanities.
For decades conceptual artist Alyce Santoro CEC 94 has been on a quest to elucidate the relationships between art and science. Her initial plan was to become a scientific illustrator, so she earned a degree in Marine Biology and pursued illustration through RISD’s Continuing Education program, earning a certificate in Natural Science Illustration.
Instead of finding satisfaction in creating illustrations to explain scientific phenomena to laypeople, however, Santoro found herself increasingly drawn to creating “philosoprops” – objects intended to stimulate philosophical discussion about the relationship between humans and “spaceship Earth.”
“It was becoming increasingly obvious that relentless exploitation of the features and creatures of planet Earth by humans is not sustainable,” says Santoro. “I started to see a relationship between the habitual separation of art and science and the common human perception of ourselves as separate from one another and the biosphere. I formulated a hypothesis that if we could begin thinking differently, we could begin existing differently – more constructively – in the world.”
Santoro is now seeking funds via Kickstarter to produce Philosoprops: A Unified Field Guide, a limited-edition book documenting her life’s work. “These objects are not traditional works of art,” she says. “Like the disciplines I have been striving to weave together, they are most meaningful in relation to one another. The book is about the kind of thinking that went into their creation, and about our potential as human beings to engage our creativity and imagination to craft the healthiest and most harmonious possible existence.”
Alyssa Mixon didn’t win this year’s Miss Maine competition, but she did win a $1,000 Miss America Academic Scholarship to continue her studies at the University of New England of Osteopathic Medicine. Her platform for the pageant was turning STEM to STEAM, and she cited RISD’s leadership role in the initiative in her statement.
“RISD and others are building STEAM but they need a catalyst,” wrote the beautiful and brainy Biddeford, ME resident. “Miss America is that catalyst. Working with RISD, I can accelerate the program’s initiatives, pushing it through to Capitol Hill until it becomes a household acronym.” And, she added, “No matter what path the next generation takes – whether it is medicine, politics or art – there will always be a demand for critical thinking and creativity.”
How great to know the message is really getting out there!
In an Ideas Bank piece in the August issue of Wired UK, RISD Trustee Jon Kamen makes a compelling case for the importance of adding Art to STEM education (better known at RISD as the STEAM initiative).
In the brief article, called Creativity is the missing ingredient in education, Kamen points out that:
“Companies have been desperately seeking [creativity] since the last depression. Creative thinking leads to innovation, and innovation leads to success. Sure, science, technology, engineering and maths are necessary, but without the initial creative stimulus for solving a problem or imagining the possible, nothing would ever be accomplished.”
In addition to being a trustee, Kamen is chairman and CEO of @radical media and his son is a RISD alum: Zack Kamen 09 ID.
[illustration by Ellie Forman Peck]
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of art and science fellowships sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 16 artists – including two from RISD – are showing policy-related projects at the AAAS Art Gallery in Washington, DC, through September 20. Called The Art of Science Policy, the exhibition focuses on how art and design can enhance our understanding of the policy dimensions of science.
Ryan Murphy 15 ID is showing Know, his all-in-one travel tool for the blind, which acts as a laser walking cane (to replace the more cumbersome old-school walking cane) while providing a braille-to-voice reader that makes it easy for blind travelers to check flight and gate information in crowded airports. Ryan is also a 2013 Maharam STEAM Fellow, meaning he’s doing a funded internship this summer – in his case, with the World Economic Forum – to bring art and design thinking to government and nonprofit organizations.
Recent grad Samantha Dempsey 13 IL is presenting her Maharam STEAM Fellowship project from last summer – a kit she developed at the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation to encourage improved communication between patients and medical professionals. Currently in limited use, the kit includes image cards, positive and negative stickers and other familiar, board game–like accouterments that prompt patients to create visual maps and diagrams to better explain certain issues.
As we’re ever more accurately targeted by marketing companies via Facebook and other social media, we’re beginning to come to terms with the idea that these hip little devices we’re constantly playing with are generating mountains of very specific, personal data. That data is being used to forward a wide variety of agendas, but digital media artist and RISD DM Critic Brian House likes putting his own data to a creative use.
House recorded his location data for one year (2011–12) using OpenPaths, a personal tracking app he developed, and then created an algorithm (using a programming language called Python) to identify the places he visited most frequently. Next, he assigned each of these locations a specific musical note and produced Quotidian Record, an 11-minute musical track (on vinyl!).
“There’s kind of an underlying pulse to the composition that represents two hours of actual time,” says House. “What you hear on top of that are these little motifs, the geographic narratives that I cycle through over the course of my daily movements.” He notes that through the project he learned that “the cadence of everyday life is in fact musical. The data exhaust everyone produces every day through the use of these devices – computers and cell phones and ATMs and self-driving cars – is more personal than we think.” And, he adds, “Google and the NSA don’t have to get the final word.”
Quotidian Record has been exhibited in galleries and technology centers around the world and will be included this September in the Ars Electronica exhibitionin Austria.
“When you think of design, you probably don’t think of Uganda,” writes Leah Chung 14 ID from her summer internship working with Plan International in Africa. “So it was quite an experience for me when the first interview I did in the first week of settling in Kampala was with the design firm Addmaya.”
Leah (center in this photo taken at Addmaya) is one of 10 RISD students and recent alumni pursuing fascinating projects after winning a Maharam STEAM Fellowship in Applied Art and Design. One of the best parts for the rest of us is that whether they’re interning close to home or in remote regions of the world, all 10 Fellows are blogging about their summer experiences on the Maharam Fellows site.
Eliza Squibb 13 TX, who’s exploring textiles produced by indigenous people in the Amazonian region of Peru, has been writing long and detailed posts full of anecdotes and observations like this:
“In the evening, Adelina and I sat out in the garden under the moon (it was the first time I’d seen the moon since my arrival in Peru – Lima’s pollution is not conducive to star-gazing) and talked about life in Pucallpa, before I went to bed in my hut and was lulled to sleep (not exactly) by all the village dogs and chickens, plus some mysterious rustlings in the roof, and the largest spiders I have ever seen.”
And from India, where Nupur Mathur MFA 14 DM and Bathsheba Okwenje MFA 14 DM are exploring gender politics and violence against women, the two have been posting a series of fascinating musings such as this one from Sheba:
“Every train on the Delhi subway has a car that is reserved for women only…. I started to think about this voluntary gender segregation and what it says about the politics of gender and patriarchy in Delhi. Using the subway as an allegory, I don’t think that the separation of the sexes is a useful tool to mitigate the imbalance that patriarchal systems cause, nor do I think that here it is intended to do that. I do think, in the case of the subway, its intention is to create a space for women to travel without the ogling, teasing, groping of lascivious men. But this I believe just reinforces the tenets of patriarchy and I also believe it condescends to not only women but to men as well. It presumes that men, in the unrestricted company of women, cannot control an impulse to violate. When men are faced with a society that presumes this behaviour of them as a default and organizes itself around mitigating it, this same society is paradoxically supporting (or encouraging?) the same behaviour. It does not give men a chance.”
Bathsheba and Nupur are blogging from Delhi, India
In other words, if you didn’t already know about the Maharam STEAM Fellows blog, it’s worth bookmarking so that you can see how these super-motivated members of the RISD community are both soaking up their eye-opening experiences and bringing art and design thinking to a wide range of real-world issues beyond the typical realm of creative practice.
In Artists and Scientists: More Alike Than Different, a piece published today on the Scientific American blog, President John Maeda continues to make a case for turning STEM to STEAM by reconnecting the arts and sciences.
Maeda reminds us that in daVinci’s day, art and science were natural allies – or rather, two connected branches of natural inquiry. And he notes that today:
We know that the scientist’s laboratory and the artist’s studio are two of the last places reserved for open-ended inquiry, for failure to be a welcome part of the process, for learning to occur by a continuous feedback loop between thinking and doing.
Maeda wraps up with an argument that’s tough to refute:
With all that we have to address in the world – warming continents, fluctuating economies, monstrous cities – [bringing art and science closer together] may not seem like conventional wisdom. But given the unconventional nature and scale of the problems we face today, there is real value to be gained from collaborations that bridge the best talents we have in both the quantitative and qualitative domains. Artists and designers are the ones who help bring humanity front and center, make us care and create answers that resonate with our values.