Art + science

Creative Imperative artist Ben TothCreative Imperatives’ featured guests include nationally and internationally recognized artists, educators and innovators, including: Ted Louis Levy; Ben Toth, pictured here; Margaret Wertheim; Holly Walter Kerby; Shumpei Yamaki; and Jill Sisson Quinn.

Third annual UWL creativity festival explores intersection of art, science

Explore the science of rhythm, the anatomy of singing and geometry of a beautifully crocheted coral reef.

The fusion of art and science will be the theme of a spring festival at UWL. The third annual Creative Imperatives Festival, “Curiosity and Wonder: The Intersection of Art and Science,” will be Sunday, Feb. 28 – Tuesday, March 1 at UWL and partner locations in downtown La Crosse.

Coordinated by the UWL School of Arts and Communication, the three-day series of workshops, performances, exhibits and presentations will showcase six invited guests, along with the work of UWL students, faculty and staff.

Art and science — as diverse as they appear at the onset — are also similar in many ways, says Joe Anderson, festival director.

“I think many, if not most people, are unaware of the influence of science on art and the beauty of art within science,” says Anderson.

Barrett Klein, Creative Imperatives

Barrett Klein, UWL assistant professor of Biology and artist, will lead a workshop during Creative Imperatives.

At the festival, a biologist will lead a workshop about how casting, molding, and sculpting can help scientists understand elements of nature. Another biologist and a musician will discuss the anatomy of singing, and festival participants will be invited to Annett Recital Hall, Center for the Arts, to explore the science of rhythm. Guest speaker Margaret Wertheim will share how crochet skills combined with geometry can be used to re-create coral reefs.

Each year the festival is a way for people to see the exciting and diverse disciplines within UWL’s School of Arts and Communication, yet how connected each subject is to many different areas of study, notes Anderson. “It is that connectedness that gives strength to the university,” he adds.

Laurie Kincman, festival coordinator and associate professor of Theatre Arts, initially proposed the theme after reading a quote in Scientific American about similarities between artists and scientists.

“Both are dedicated to asking the big questions placed before us: “What is true? Why does it matter? How can we move society forward?” Both search deeply, and often wanderingly, for these answers. 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.” – John Madea, past president of the Rhode Island School of Design.

Festival organizers decided to explore not only parallels in the artistic and scientific process, but also specific scientific techniques and artistic works that were a direct result of their fusion, says Kincman.

“We hope that the sessions and guests in this year’s festival allow the campus and community to appreciate this important relationship in a deeper way,” she says.

The Departments of Art, Communication Studies, Music and Theatre Arts are teaming up with colleagues from Biology, English, Mathematics, History, Psychology, Geography & Earth Science and the Office of Residential Life to put on the festival.

Festival Highlights —

9:55 a.m. Monday, Feb. 29
203 Center for the Arts
Assistant Professor Barrett Klein leads a workshop on how casting, molding, and sculpting can help scientists understand elements of nature too small to be seen by the naked eye.

Noon Monday, Feb. 29
Annett Recital Hall, Center for the Arts
Faculty and festival guests will discuss the science of rhythm.

1:10 p.m. Monday, Feb. 29
Annett Recital Hall, Center for the Arts
Biologist Tisha King and Musical Director Kathryn Skemp Moran will discuss the physiology of the voice in “The Anatomy of Singing.”

2:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 1
Hall of Nations, Centennial Hall
Student finalists in debate will face off head-to-head on the topic of environmental protections in Wisconsin.

Special exhibit:
Throughout the festival, a special exhibit of creative work blending art & science will be on display in the Third Floor Art Gallery in the Center of the Arts, where visitors can see mathematical art, robotic frogs, and digitally-recreated dinosaurs printed in 3-D.

Featured guests:

  • Ben Toth, professor of percussion and performer
  • Shumpei Yamaki, potter and dancer
  • Jill Sisson Quinn, nature writer and teacher
  • Margaret Wertheim, one of two masterminds behind Coral Reef Project
  • Holly Walter Kerby, executive director of Fusion Science Theatre
  • Ted Louis Levy, award-winning dancer and choreographer