Heads are a science apart…

“Eye” by Suk-Joon “Peter” Hong

I am always interested when opposite worlds transect.  Last week, I was able to assist a promising Pharmacology postdoctoral fellow with her ArtLab: Exploring the Intersection between Art and Science project, which happens to be something I’ve been passionate about for a very long time…

“Organfiti” by Kendra Oliver PhD & Jon Erhman PhD

For many years, I worked in a supporting role in a basic science lab and I always thought the images generated from their research could easily be termed ‘art’.  I took this belief and worked with a team of talented developmental biologists to run two large-scale art and science projects with our public school gifted and talented program; ArtScience and PI 2 PI.  The goal was to get children to explore what it means to be an artist and/or scientist and excited about creating something from the marriage of both. These ‘next generation creatives’ produced incredible paintings, drawings, poetry, music and even screenplays, much of which is still displayed in labs and meeting rooms across Vanderbilt’s campus.

“Heart Attack” by Suk-Joon “Peter” Hong

Kendra Oliver, Ph.D., is the talented mastermind behind the ArtLab project.  When I was asked to help with some logistical issues I jumped at the chance to be part of her work.  It was a true pleasure to collaborate with someone whose passion for art and science equals my own.  Since Kendra already had a fully realized project in place by the time I stepped in to assist all I had to do was suggest the addition of a few pieces of art and order some food for the event.

“Eve Moll” by the David Sweatt Laboratory

Kendra worked over a year on this project, which included seminars led by scientists and artists and numerous workshops across campus which resulted in the beautiful science-inspired paintings, drawings, sculptures, and weavings displayed at the show (and pictured here). She will continue to expand the program, with her next step to embed artists in labs to facilitate the ‘eureka’ moment when creativity and science collide to make art!

Epithelial Triptych  #1 “Neurons and Glial cells”  by Kendra Oliver (terracotta tiles)
Epithelial Triptych #2 “Endothelial Cells” by Kendra Oliver (terracotta tiles)
Epithelial Triptych #3 “Intestinal Brush Border ” by Kendra Oliver (terracotta tiles)

One serendipitous outcome of the event was a chance meeting with an STEM teacher who attended ArtLab and who had just received a large federal grant to create an art and science intersection project for the K-4 magnet school population.  As a result of this chance encounter, Kendra and I will soon be meeting with the teacher to explore the ways our shared passions for science and art can be extended into the classroom going forward.

*The Scientist – Willie Nelson

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