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Apr 17, 2014



The STEM to STEAM educational movement strives to put the "A" (Art/Design) in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning. As the STEM to STEAM movement grows, it is important to document STEAM-specific learning. In gathering evidence about STEAM learning, we are showing how well STEAM works and how integral all the subjects in STEAM really are.

We recently had the opportunity to document an educational project from start to finish. On the one-year anniversary of the 2013 Boston Marathon, which was a day of both tragedy and bravery for the Boston community, Advent School students created artwork as a memorial in honor of the Marathon and a celebration of the City of Boston. The Advent School, a Boston independent elementary school dedicated to innovative teaching and learning styles, developed a project for their older students to create an installation of flowers made by hand. We filmed the process - not only to document the outcome but to show that learning is an integral part of project design. You can watch the video here:

A visiting artist, Amy Flurry, Co-Founder of the Paper-Cut-Project, led the students in creating “Flowers for Boston.” Amy brought plants and flowers for the students to study and instructed them on how to recreate the shapes and structures of flowers with bristol paper. We filmed as the students used investigative processes and learned to transform their observations into representative artwork. It was fascinating to capture the students’ careful examination of the details of flowers, and then to watch as they put that new knowledge to use in engineering sculptural interpretations. 

Documenting learning helps children, parents, teachers, and administrators to learn, teach, and understand. Not only does it encourage reflection and memory for students, but strengthens planning and curriculum development as well as engagement from parents and administrators. Making learning visible means that everyone involved in the educational process can take an active role in evaluating progress and discovery. 

Thanks to Advent Art Instructor Saskia Van Vactor and David Van Vactor for making this art/science learning possible at the Advent School. The “Flowers for Boston” installation can be seen at J.P. Licks, 150 Charles Street on Beacon Hill, until Friday, April 25.

CommentsCategories Art Boston STEM to STEAM Tags #bostonstrong

Mar 26, 2014



A few months ago, I headed to New York's Hudson River Valley with my family to visit Storm King and Dia: Beacon

The first time I visited Storm King was to grab a couple of shots for my Serra documentary for Gibbs Farm.

"Seeing the Landscape: Richard Serra's Tuhirangi Contour" DIR. Alberta Chu. 2003. An ASKlabs Production for the Keystone Trust.

Serra’s work at Storm King, Schunnemunk Fork, is comprised of four walls that express the fall of the land. This time the work was different than other times I had seen it; the grass had grown very tall around the pieces. I thought that Richard would probably prefer the tall grasses to be cut.

Richard Serra. Schunnemunk Fork. 1990-91. Storm King Art Center

We spent a perfect Fall afternoon at Storm King exploring large-scale sculptures by Di Suvero, Calder, Lewitt, Nevelson, and Snelson, to name a few. I was pleased to experience a couple of the more recently installed works: Maya Lin’s earthwork was quite substantial and the kids had a blast with its topology; Goldsworthy’s wall meandered and crossed a brook.

TOP: Maya Lin. Storm King Wavefield. 2007-08. BOTTOM: Andy Goldsworthy. Storm King Wall, 1997-98.

The next day we visited Dia: Beacon. Dia was formerly located in Manhattan’s Chelsea district but moved out of the city to a spacious Nabisco plant several years ago. I will never forget first seeing Serra’s Torqued Ellipses at Dia's raw warehouse space in the late 1990s.  Dia: Beacon is a stunning art museum, the ceilings are shaped like the teeth of a saw and let in all this amazing natural light. It’s just huge: Heizer, Serra, Flavin, Lewitt, Warhol, De Maria, Beuys, Irwin, Neuhaus, the list goes on. 

Works by (L) Michael Heizer and (R) Dan Flavin at Dia: Beacon. (By advance appointment you can get inside the barrier around the Heizers to get a closer look.)

On these art pilgrimages, I love experiencing art with kids, and am also encouraged by the promise that their minds are developing new connections.

We've talked about STEM (science + technology + engineering + mathematics) to STEAM (science + technology + engineering + arts + mathematics) before, and more voices are joining in on this movement. On Arts Advocacy Day in April 2013, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma spoke about the importance of arts education for the future of our nation. Ma discussed the national STEM to STEAM education movement stating: “STEM without STEAM loses steam, but STEM with STEAM will power our country forward. The qualities crucial to success in the 21st Century workforce will not come just from studying science, technology and engineering and math, as important as those disciplines are.”

Kenneth Snelson. Free Ride Home. 1974. Storm King Art Center.

And there’s proof that art makes kids smart - good news for educators fighting to keep arts funding. In 2008, university researchers completed three years of studies on the relationships between the arts and cognition. The Dana Consortium Report Learning, Arts, and the Brain showed strong links between cognitive abilities and arts education (press release here). These projects were preliminary, and did not lead to the identification of definitive causal relationships.

A more recent study, according to an op-ed piece in the New York Times by Brian Kisida, Jay P. Greene and Daniel H. Bowen, took advantage of the "perfect opportunity" to investigate links between art and its educational benefits. A few years ago, a Walton (Walmart, Sam’s Club) heiress opened the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. School field trips to the museum are free, thanks to a generous endowment, but the local schools far outnumber the available slots for visits so a lottery system was instituted. This creates a unique opportunity for social scientists to conduct research on the effects of museum visits on school age children: to study groups of kids who had never been to art museums in an educational setting (and to have control groups in the kids who had not yet been chosen by lottery). Their findings indicate significant benefits in critical thinking, arts engagement, and diversity of ideas. Though research in this area is still in its early days, it provides strong support for strengthening arts curriculum in schools.

Get inspired by art and grow your brain connections! Storm King Art Center reopens for the 2014 season this week, so dust off your picnic blankets and put some air in your bicycle tires. (While you're in the area, we've heard the Hessell Museum at Bard College is worth a visit too.)  Happy trails!

TOP OF PAGE: Sol Lewitt. Five Modular Units. 1971. Storm King Art Center.

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CommentsCategories Art Environment STEM to STEAM US Tags Storm King, Dia Beacon, Serra, Di Suvero, Maya Lin, Goldsworthy, Nevelson, Lewitt, Calder, Heizer, Judd, Snellson, Flavin, De Maria warhol

Oct 16, 2013



Last month, Nerd Nite Boston gathered Boston’s nerds to hear some stories inspired by art, science, technology, lightning, and dystopic visions of invasive social networks. At the Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge, with nerds crowded around low tables, it appeared the husband and wife duo, Alberta Chu and Murray Robinson, were presenting to a group of eager kindergarteners, all of whom wanted to grow up to be scientists (though in reality, most of the audience probably already had). In case you missed it, here are some highlights:

Alberta started by explaining how she has forged her career in science and documentaries, showing us some great clips from her broad body of work. This included a clip of Samuel L Jackson narrating a doc on Industrial Light and Magic’s development of special effects for the Star Wars films. The clip went down pretty well, with audience respondents chanting Mr Jackson’s name and laughing at the corny, tongue-in-cheek intro. It also, of course, included some beautiful footage of massive sculptures on Gibbs’ Farm in New Zealand, which also gathered praise from the audience. The work on sci-fi shows and the engineering of big sculpture has allowed Alberta to have exciting premieres of her work and to build her expertise as a filmmaker, enabling her to pursue making films about the intersection of science and art.

The rest of Alberta’s talk featured several possible outcomes of science and art collaborations, like new science, new art, new technology, and public engagement. Alberta is fascinated with the kinds of hybrid science, art, and technologies that emerge from these collaborations, but places her own work in the final grouping, in that she creates art (films) which enable and/or enhance public engagement in science, art, and technology. Alberta’s slideshow reviewed the broad world history of science and art collaborations, including local heroes Doc Edgerton, Synergy Exhibits, Felice Frankel, as well as international technoartists and organizations: SymbioticA, Natalie Jeremijenko, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, the Exploratorium, and more. Ultimately, she argued, artists can help scientists address contemporary big issues, and can help bring science to the public in ways that make the science relevant and immediate.

Murray has been working on genes for nearly 30 years. He started out in the 1980s transferring lightning bug genes into mice to see what happened - resulting in glowing mice! Later, Murray met artist Eduardo Kac through Alberta, and his genetic work with mice inspired Kac’s later work in creating Alba, a glowing rabbit. The media maelstrom around this particular work and the process of genetic mutation seems to have died down considerably in the 13 years following Kac’s Alba, Murray argued, as glowing fish are now available as pets without any huge reaction. Over time, as the science has grown into shocking art and then into mainstream culture, the new technologies have been accepted and are no longer as shocking. Murray extended this pattern to hypothesize that the same would one day be true about public reaction toward the huge technological advance of genomics. The first human genome was sequenced less than 15 years ago, but the drop in cost for this process is phenomenal, and means that there is likely to be a sea change in how we understand ourselves in the next decade (at least). Companies like 23andme are giving consumers access to limited genetic information about themselves for as little as $99, and though the amount of data promised seems like a lot, it actually shows how little we really know about what genes are linked to. We know some things, like some diseases, some facial features, etc. Murray discusses two aspects of gene-linked traits: the controversial behavioral links, and the much less controversial idea of facial features linked to specific genes.

One of the reasons Murray became interested in genetics is because of his brother Kelly. Kelly is an enigmatic figure who is fascinated with electronics, funny, engaging, sleeps funny hours, and developmentally delayed. It wasn’t until 1998 that he was diagnosed with Smith-Magenis Syndrome, which was associated with the loss of one gene, RAI1. The diagnostic features of this gene-linked syndrome, however, included behavioral traits like a fascination with electronics. There are other genetically-linked syndromes with behavioral diagnostic elements. This is fascinating and highly controversial, given that electronics are such a recent and culturally contingent part of society, along with the nature vs nurture debates which rage among scientists and social scientists. Murray also provided two other syndromes which have associated behavioral traits. Aside from behavior, these genetic syndromes are also linked to characteristic facial features, which, again, is less controversial in terms of social narratives about genetics.

But given the huge amount of data flooding in, and the growing number of scientists and organizations working to begin interpreting that data, what will the future hold? When we do know more about our genetic data, how will we use it? Murray presented a few examples of capitalist/consumer-driven dystopian possibilities, and concluded that the issues and implications underlying this new explosion in genomics needs to be widely discussed and understood.

Both Alberta and Murray definitely agreed on a few key points - science needs to be talked about. The public needs to be in on the conversation. That’s the key importance of science and art collaboration and communication - to bring the science and the public together, to make science and technology accessible, interesting, and relevant to everyone.

Photo by Hargo

Thanks to Mary and Tim and all the folks at Middlesex Lounge! A huge thanks to all who attended! And here’s the #storify of Nerd Nite September capturing the social media around the event. Special thanks to Paul Ha, Hargo, Mark Zastrow, Snarky, Jarrett, Derya, Elena, DoreenAlex and Max for the social media love. 

-- Kat Hughes, Development Associate, ASKlabs

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CommentsCategories Art Boston DocFilm Events SciArt SciComm Science STEM to STEAM US

Apr 9, 2013



The Cambridge Science Festival 2013 is here at last! This is the sixth year of this innovative festival, which was the first of its kind in the US. Events take place all over Cambridge, with several events further afield, highlighting all the great venues and great science to be found in the Boston area. Follow the Festival on Twitter (@CSFtweets) for up-to-date info. Please consider making a donation to the Cambridge Science Festival here:

Of the 152 exhibits, events, and recurring programs ranging from the "Party for the Planet at Franklin Park Zoo" in celebration of Earth day, to the MIT Flea Market, the following events really jumped out at us: some #sciart, with a little innovation, storytelling, #scicomm, and education thrown in.

Friday, April 12

What: SoundScience Fun! @ The Museum of Science, ScienceLive Stage
When: April 12, 5:30pm - 6:15pm
Why: Learn about the science of sound through singing and demonstrations. Free!

What: The Edge of the Map @ Harvard University Science Center, Rm 302, 1 Oxford St., Cambridge
When: April 12, 8:00pm - 9:00pm (and again April 13, 2:00pm - 3:00pm & 5:00pm - 6:00pm & 8:00pm - 9:00pm, and April 14, 5:00pm - 6:00pm)
Why: A collaboration between Harvard biology students and theater-maker Calla Videt, this piece explores social issues and biology through genetics.

What: Operation Epsilon @ Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
When: April 12-8:00pm - 10:00pm (and again April 13, 3:00pm - 5:00pm & 8:00pm - 10:00pm; April 14, 2:00pm - 4:00pm; April 17, 7:30pm - 9:30pm; April 18, 7:30pm - 9:30pm; April 19, 8:00pm - 10:00pm; April 20, 3:00pm - 5:00pm & 8:00pm - 10:00pm; April 21, 2:00pm - 4:00pm)
Why: This play is based on real transcripts which were secretly recorded during Hitler’s “Uranium Club’s” captivity in England. How close were the Nazis to an atomic bomb? What was really happening among these top scientists under Hitler?

Sunday, April 14

What: Artisan's Asylum Open House & DIY Festival @ Artisan's Asylum, 10 Tyler Street, Somerville
When: April 14, 1:00pm - 5:00pm
Why: Check out the Artisan’s Asylum - what they do, and what you could do too!

What: MIT Museum Art & Science Studio Showcase @ MIT Museum, 265 Mass Ave, Cambridge
When: April 14, 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Why: See awesome current projects from MIT students, staff, and researchers.

What: Visual-Eyes Art: The Visual Ecology Exhibit @ MassArt Student Life Gallery, Kennedy Bldg., 621 Huntington Ave., 2nd Floor, Boston
When: April 14-1:00pm - 4:00pm
Why: Anatomy, evolution, and art - MassArt students’ multi-media work on animal eyes.

What: Making Science Toys IV @ Beaver Brook Reservation, Waltham line, Waverley Oaks Road
When: April 14, 3:00pm - 5:30pm
Why: Aimed at kids, this course teaches how to make cool science toys - can adults come too?

What: H2Oratorio: A Deluge of Songs @ The Museum of Science, Cahners Theater
When: April 14, 5:00pm - 6:30pm (and again April 21, 2:00pm - 3:30pm)
Why: Songs about H20 with scientifically accurate lyrics? Sounds pretty good.

What: Hi-Fi-Sci: Music & Science Animation @ MIT Museum, 265 Mass Ave., Cambridge
When: April 14, 7:30pm - 10:00pm
Why: Composers and scientists come together for a presentation of musical interpretations of scientific visualizations. Science communication and art!

  L:, R:

Monday, April 15

What: Broader Impacts: How to Talk About Your Work with the Media @ MIT Building 34, Room 101 (50 Vassar St., Cambridge)
When: April 15, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Why: Science in the media: what is the best way for scientists to get their work known?

Tuesday, April 16

What: Science & Poetry @ Cambridge Public Library, Lecture Hall, 449 Broadway, Cambridge
When: April 16, 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Why: Scientists, poets, writers, discussion: how can science and poetry work together?


Storytellers Seth Mnookin and Anna Wexler from the Collider!

What: The Story Collider @ Johnny D's, 17 Holland Street, Davis Square, Somerville
When: April 16, 7:30pm - 10:00pm
Why: Six people entertain with true stories about science.

Wednesday, April 17

What: A Science Author Salon with Emily Anthes author of Frankenstein's Cat @ ZuZu Bar, 474 Mass Ave., Central Square, Cambridge
When: April 17, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Why: A talk about animal biotechnology from author Emily Anthes, co-presented by Nerd Nite Boston

Thursday, April 18

What: Science (Pub) Crawl, 3D Printing and Nature-Inspired Product Design Drop-in design workshops with Nervous System Design Studio @ Xylem, 287 3rd St., Kendall Sq. Free, 21+ cash bars 
When: April 18, 5:00pm-6:00pm
Why: What could be cooler?!?! Plus you're probably thirsty...

What: What Will it Take: Plugging the Leaky STEM Pipeline @ The Broad Institute Auditorium, 7 Cambridge Center, Kendall Square
When: April 18, 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Why: A roundtable discussion on problems and possible solutions for the cracks in STEM programming.

Friday, April 19

What: Making Movies, Making Science @ MIT Museum, 265 Mass Ave., Cambridge
When: April 19, 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Why: Short films by MIT students about science and technology, plus a Q&A

What: Trimpin: The Sound of Invention film screening and Q&A @ MIT Building 34, Room 101 (50 Vassar St., Cambridge)
When: April 19, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Why: Screening of doc about innovative sound artist Trimpin, his creative process, and his amazing accomplishments. Q&A with Trimpin afterwards!

What: Rites of Passage by Quicksilver Dance @ MIT Simmons Hall(229 Vassar Street, Cambridge)
When: April 19, 8:00pm- 9:30pm (and again April 20 at 8:00pm- 9:30pm)
Why: Dance interpretations including the process of evolution and movements of early lifeforms.

Saturday, April 20

What: Science & Comics @ Cambridge Public Library, Lecture Hall, 449 Broadway, Cambridge
When: April 20, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Why: Comic artists and scientists discuss the possibilities within their collaborations

What: Living in the Future: Pop Culture Meets Today's Technology @ MIT Museum, 265 Mass Ave., Cambridge
When: April 20, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Why: Discussion and clips of futuristic films, and learn how close scientists are to those fantastic representations.

What: The Festival of Bad Ad-Hoc Hypotheses @ MIT 26-100
When: April 20, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Why: Hilarious and improbable explanations of evolutionary theory given to a panel of judges.

Sunday, April 21

What: Art and Nature: Illustrating Urban Wildlife @ Danehy Park, 99 Sherman St., Cambridge
When: April 21, 1:00pm - 3:00pm
Why: Collect real specimens and learn to make art with natural inspiration from Cambridge wildlife.

What: Sci-Fi Radio Drama Double-Feature: LIVE! @ MIT Museum, 265 Mass Ave., Cambridge
When: April 21, 2:00pm - 4:30pm
Why: Experience science-fiction tales as they used to be on the radio, and then learn about some of the innovative sound techniques with effects artists!

What: Ocean Stories: A Synergy of Art and Science @ The Museum of Science
When: April 12-21, 9:00am-5:00pm
Why: See the experimental work resulting from collaborations between MIT and Woods Hole Oceaonographic Institution scientists and local artists. @sciart_synergy
Follow the exhibit on Twitter: @sciart_synergy and Facebook:

When you hit a Cambridge Science Fest (@CSFTweets) event be sure to post a photo or comment on Facebook or Twitter using #CambSciFest. We shall see you there!

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CommentsCategories Art Boston DocFilm Environment Events SciArt SciComm Science Social Media STEM to STEAM Tags #cambscifest, cambridge science festival #sciart, #scicomm, #bostonarts, Boston events, MIT, MIT Museum, Boston Sciart, Museum of Science, Ocean Stories, Story Collider, Artisan's Asylum, Central Square Theater, Harvard, Cambridge Public LIbrary, The Broad Institute, STEM, Trimpin Seth Mnookin, Anna Wexler

Apr 2, 2013



ASKlabs relocated from LA to Boston ten years ago seeking the #sciart scene. Right away, we discovered the Boston Cyberarts Festival, the Decordova Museum, the ICA, the MIT Museum, the MIT List, MIT's Media Lab, and Arts Interactive. Lately we’ve noticed a groundswell of art and science happenings in the Boston area. With world-class scientific research and outstanding arts and cultural institutions in such proximity, it seems natural that the two would intersect, blend, even collide.

The Boston Cyberarts Festival was founded by George Fifield in 1999 with the goal of exposing public audiences to a wide range of digital and experimental media arts. The citywide biennial festival featured: new media art; music, dance, and theatrical performances; film and video; and lectures and panels. The last Cyberarts Festival was held in Spring 2011 but the organization is still very active. These days, Cyberarts produces exhibits, including Cycles, Tides and Seasons by Ben Houge, at the Harbor Island Pavilion on the Greenway Conservancy. The work opens with a reception on May 31st. Also coming up at the Cyberarts Gallery at the Green Street T station (Orange Line) is the Collision Collective’s Collision 19 show, for which they are still taking proposals. The show will run from June 14-July 27 of this year.

L: Adult Offerings at the Museum of Science. R: "Lightning Dreams" film premiere at the MOS wtih Greg Leyh, Lightning On Demand, SF; Daniel Davis, PhD, Museum of Science tesla coil expert, Alberta Chu, Filmmaker, ASKlabs; Lisa Monrose, MOS

Other events to check out include the excellent adult programs at Boston’s Museum of Science. In 2005 independent filmmaker/video artist Lisa Monrose stepped in as Program Manager of Lectures and Special Programs. She has been a driving force in science and art programs at the MOS and around town ever since. Upon arriving at the Museum of Science, she created the “When Science Meets Art” initiative featuring music performances with Evan Ziporyn and Christine Southworth, wearable technology fashion shows, a RadioLab Listening Party in the Planetarium, and lecture-exhibit-installations with artists such as Nathalie Miebach, Halsey Burgund, Alexis Rockman, Chris Jordan, and Anna Deavere Smith. In November 2012, ASKlabs was extremely pleased to have our world premiere of “Lightning Dreams: The Electrum at Gibbs Farm” (2011) chronicling the creation of the world’s largest kinetic lightning sculpture (and tesla coil) as part of this MOS “When Science Meets Art” series. The program featured high-voltage engineer Greg Leyh, of Lightning on Demand from San Francisco and MOS resident tesla coil expert Dr. Daniel Davis.

The MOS also collaborates with the Brookline, MA, Coolidge Corner Theater’s “Science on Screen” film series which launched in Fall 2005. For these events, a film with a science theme is accompanied by a scientist lecture. Films like “It Came From Beneath the Sea” are presented with University of Chicago biologist Michael LaBarbera; “12 Monkeys” is accompanied by a talk from notable science writer Carl Zimmer. This program, piloted in the Boston area, has now been awarded funds to expand nationwide.

In Fall of 2012 Catalyst Conversations (founded by artist, educator, and curator Deborah Davidson) started holding monthly events consisting of thoughtfully curated panel discussions featuring scientists and artists together. Events have included author Seth Mnookin and artists Brian Knep, David Small and Nathalie Miebach; a conversation between scientist and writer Alan Lightman and artist Felice Frankel; artist Janet Echelman and her computer-scientist collaborator Peter Boyer, video artist Sam Jury and science writer Eli Kintish. The latest event featured oceanographer and photographer Larry Pratt, and artistic director of Contrapose Dance, Courtney Peix, and biologist, science journalist and creator of the “Dance Your PhD” contest, John Bohannon.

Currently on view at the Museum of Science Art & Science Gallery is Ocean Voices: A Synergy of Art and Science at the Museum of Science. This exhibit is an experiment in art and science collaboration produced by Whitney Bernstein and Lizzie Kripke of Synergy. New England artists and scientists were paired in order to build upon each other’s ideas, approaches, and perspectives to open up new modes of communication and public engagement. These pairings provide us with innovative ways of understanding oceanography, as well as interesting new insights into scientific and artistic practice. On March 3, 2013 MOS panel discussions with all of the artist and scientists involved with the project moderated by Ari Daniel Shapiro fascinated us with their reflections on the process of scientist and artist collaborations.

The Synergy Artist-Science collaborations was born out of a Climate Art Pizza event organized by science journalist Eli Kintisch. Eli began conducting Climate Art Pizza get-togethers in the Boston area in Fall 2011 when his MIT Knight Science Journalism fellowship brought him to town. More recently he has worked with the Cambridge Arts Council, Catalyst Conversations and the Broad Institute to bring together greater Boston-area organizations and practitioners of art/science initiatives to share current projects and, potentially, to prepare for collaborations, events, and further meetings.

With the national STEM to STEAM movement gaining momentum and a growing international interest in design and innovation, ASKlabs is very enthusiastic about collaborating with other area science/art communicators and educators to contribute to the national and global dialogue on art, design, science, engineering, education, and innovation which will strengthen our community and benefit all of society.

L: R:!-cage.jpg

Climate Art Pizza’s Science Art Blender also took place on April 1, 2013 at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). Billed “minitalks and schmoozing,” this event highlights the massive amount of exciting art and science work happening in Boston. We heard rapidfire 5-minute presentations from: data visualizer aka “visceralizer” Kyuha Shim on Tangible Topography; GSD's Marcus Owens on Multinatural Histories an exhibit being created for Harvard’s Peabody Natural History Museum for Fall 2013 and currently accepting submissions; Marine biologist Whitney Bernstein and artist Lizzie Kripke on the Synergy Artist-Scientist collaborations experiment; RISD Journalist-in-residence Eli Kintisch on his data-driven climate change art project, Here After Now, a collaboration with video artist Sam Jury; physicist Russell Seitz on his CO2 pyramid; artists Andi Sutton and Jane Marsching of Plotform presented their Marsh Radio Island environmental art project; and artist Maria Molteni gave us a bee waggle dance demonstration to articulate the many components of her work Festooning the Inflatable Beehive. The minitalks were followed by schmoozing - it was a great event - thanks to all the presenters, sponsors and attendees!

It’s a terrific time to be exploring science and art in Boston, so go check out some innovative and inspiring work right here, right now, at the epicenter of science, art, and technology. Follow @ASKlabsAlberta on Twitter to keep up on all the latest #sciart events in the Boston area. We’ll see you there!

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CommentsCategories April 2013 Art Boston DocFilm Events SciArt SciComm Science Social Media STEM to STEAM Tags #bostonarts #sciartboston #sciart George Fifield, Cyberarts, Ben Hogue, MOS, Museum of Science, Lisa Monrose, Catalyst Conversations, Deborah Davidson, Eli Kintisch, Climate Art Pizza, Blender, Science on Screen, STEM to STEAM, Felice Frankel, Alan Lightman, Synergy, Ocean Stories, WHOI, Whitney Bernstein, Lizzie Kripke

Mar 8, 2013



ASKlabs’ dynamic film and TV productions often highlight creativity at the interface of art and science. Naturally, we’ve taken an interest in the STEM to STEAM movement, the educational policy initiative to incorporate art and design into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). On the final day of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) meeting this year in Boston, we attended the “Benefits Beyond Beauty: Integration of Art and Design into STEM Education and Research” panel to see what scientists, artists, and educators have been doing to advance innovation and creativity; many have brought art and science together.

The panel was organized by Rieko Yajima, Project Director of Research Competitiveness at AAAS and Gunalan Nadarajan, Dean of Art and Design at the University of Michigan. They brought together “four national art + science initiatives, including three that are funded by the NSF, that illustrate how art and design are affecting the practice of science education, public engagement, and research collaborations”. The speakers were Gunalan Nadarajan; Brian K. Smith, Dean of Continuing Education at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD); J.D. Talasek, Director, Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences, and Marina McDougall, Curator at the Exploratorium Museum.

One way in which this panel immediately differed from others we attended was its structure: panelist talks were reduced to ten minutes apiece so that the whole group could then interact and hold breakout sessions in smaller groups to discuss experiences and ideas. The educators, scientists, artists, and media-makers in the audience could share their ideas and questions, as well as their own experiences in research and in the classroom.

At the National Academy of Sciences, J.D. Talasek runs the DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous (DASER) program, inspired by LASER. Though he started out as an engineer, Talasek is also trained as an artist and teaches a Museums in the Digital Age class at John Hopkins University. He posited that both Art and Science represent important human inquiry. Through his work with the National Academy, he has been developing programs (including an app) aimed at visual iconography and the history of science. Talasek pointed out that there are strongly formed social and academic perceptions about science and art, and it is a challenge to move beyond those ideas. In fact, bringing art and design into scientific inquiry can be seen as a career threat for some scientists, presenting difficulties in funding at the very least. However, he argued, the recent conflux of data streams are meaningless unless we can visualize them! Some of the best examples he provided of data visualization work were Katy Borner’s Atlas of Science, and the Edna Guenther Digital Arboretum.

Computer scientist and Educator Brian K Smith presented “STEM to STEAM: Developing New Frameworks for Art/Science Pedagogy,” Smith heads up the STEM to STEAM initiative at RISD where President John Maeda is a vocal proponent in the effort to change education legislation. While internationally known as an art and design school, RISD is not necessarily in the business of producing artists; rather an education at RISD aims to provide students with tools for innovation and creativity; the ideas and methods that fuel entrepreneurship and the US edge on innovation. Smith explained the need for art, design, and creativity in the field of learning sciences and at the interface of computing and technology learning. He shared William Bennett’s (former Secretary of Education under Reagan) recent op-ed piece in the Detroit Free Press declaring that STEM-based education in the US is missing its mark. Smith feels that a STEM-deficient education holds back the economy, and that together with a drop in creativity (see The Creativity Crisis), there is a serious need for rethinking STEM education. This needs to include innovation and experience, particularly at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts: he asks, how does design fuel the experience and the intersection of technology and arts? With funding from the National Science Foundation, RISD has been heavily involved in this rethinking via its STEM to STEAM initiatives, which have helped to formulate House Resolution 51 re-introduced on February 4, 2013, by US Representative Jim Langevin (D) to turn STEM to STEAM. The petition can be signed here. 


“Art allows new ways in and through scientific material and thought.”

Margaret Wertheim
Science Communicator and Founder, The Institute for Figuring

Curator Marina MacDougall of San Francisco’s Exploratorium presented “Exploratorium: Art and Inquiry”  talked first about the place of the Exploratorium at the intersection of art and science. The unique museum, which was founded by Frank Oppenheimer in 1969, is a hybrid museum and lab, focused on education. Artists have been key to the formation and continuation of the museum: its first show was Cybernetic Serendipity. An early artist in residence program at the museum has resulted in a long term exhibit by artist Bob Miller which explores light and shadow. In fact, art has continued to be an integral part of the museum’s methodologies, which understand art as a cultural tool to advance human knowledge. MacDougall explained that the Exploratorium views art as a way of knowing. They believe that art is an open ended process of working, investigating, speculating, and going along unknown paths - with the unknown something being a discovery. The world eagerly awaits the re-opening of the Exploratorium in its new location in April 2013.

“Art is a culturally evolved strategy for human cognition related to complex problems.”
Simon Penny
Artist and Curator

Finally, Dean Gunalan Nadarajan spoke the 2010 National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) conference which explored the intersection of art and science and potential collaborations. The result of this meeting was a national network called SEAD (science, engineering, art, design). This network was established to respond to complex problems with multidisciplinary teams.

This panel was an excellent survey of ongoing art-science collaborations. It was also a great way to connect with current and interested practitioners from around the world. We loved seeing that art is an integral part of scientific research, communication, and education. Art and design-thinking are vital to the complex problem-solving of scientific and technological innovation and the broad spectrum of art and science programs represented at this symposium indicates the huge potential for work which bridges these fields.

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Stay tuned to ASKlabs blog for upcoming posts on the (Harold “Doc”) Edgerton Center at MIT, as well as coverage of the grand re-opening of the SF Exploratorium Museum by a special guest blogger!

Thanks for livetweeting the #AAASsciart panel: @sgalla, @ktraphagen

CommentsCategories Art Boston Events SciArt SciComm Science STEM to STEAM

Jan 18, 2013



Last night’s World Premiere of New Form at the Farm: Anish Kapoor’s Dismemberment Site 1 at the RISD Art Museum was great. We were thrilled to share our films about the creation of landscape sculptures at Gibbs Farm with the RISD community, and Producer/Director Alberta Chu and Editor Stephanie Munroe enjoyed the Q&A afterwards with such an engaged audience of filmmakers, artists, and designers.

It was so interesting to see the New Form at the Farm documentary alongside our 2004 film Seeing the Landscape: Richard Serra’s Tuhirangi Contour. Thanks to Deborah Clemons, Associate Educator, Public Programs, at the RISD Art Museum for programming such a nice event. A big THANKS to everyone who attended, and especially those who travelled up from NYC and down from Boston.

A group of us from Boston jumped on the Amtrak and headed down to Providence in the afternoon to explore RISD’s Nature Lab as well as the RISD Museum prior to showtime. RISD is one of the centers of the STEM to STEAM movement, which strives to change public policy by adding the "A" (for art and design) back into the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum of public education. Last night, we learned that RISD President @JohnMaeda is a prime mover in this area. EVENT PHOTOS

We hope to see you at our next event, a screening of New Form at the Farm at Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum on February 2!

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CommentsCategories Art Boston DocFilm Environment Events SciArt Social Media STEM to STEAM UK US World

May 14, 2012

The Advent School is Building the Future

ASKlabs presents the Advent School's 50th Anniversary video (duration: 6 minutes) which premiered at the school's Spring Benefit at the Liberty Hotel in Boston on Saturday evening. Check it out! Thanks to all of the students, teachers and staff who made this film possible. Many thanks to Editor Stephanie MunroeDP Jason Harmon. Animation/Graphic Designer Mariya Nikiforova, Post-production credit and many thanks go to Eric Masanaga and the crew at Modulus Studios. Rock on!

The Advent School website:

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CommentsCategories Art Boston Events May 2012 SciArt Science STEM to STEAM US

Mar 13, 2012

CERN welcomes its first artist in residence

CERN welcomes its first artist in residence

(Linz, Geneva, 13.3.2012) Creative collisions have begun at CERN  with the arrival of Julius von Bismarck as the laboratory’s first Collide@CERN artist in residence. A rising star of the international arts scene, von Bismarck will team up with theoretical physicist James Wells as he works alongside the lab’s engineers and scientists for the next two months before moving to the Ars Electronica Futurelab in Linz, Austria for the second part of his residency. Von Bismarck and Wells will give a public presentation in CERN’s Globe of Science and Innovation on 21 March.

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CommentsCategories Art Events March 2012 SciArt SciComm Science STEM to STEAM World