In great anticipation of the Broaden Your Impact symposium, I wanted to share some of my experiences and thoughts for sharing your science from what many of you might consider the dominion of “that other half of my brain”. I use art to communicate science, because art can be a very compelling and often tangible way to communicate science to a broad audience.
Dear biocreativity readers,
I just wanted to let you know that biocreativity’s partner gallery – Art.Science.Gallery. in Austin, TX – has just launched an exciting crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo.com to help us evolve from being a pop-up gallery to a brick-and-mortar gallery! As you probably know, Art.Science.Gallery. is the direct descendent of the biocreativity blog. I decided to open an art gallery that exclusively features science-related art after meeting many of our talented Eco Art + Science Series artists and seeing the amazing work they create! There are a whole lot of science artists out there who need more places to show their work, and thus Art.Science.Gallery. was born! Art is also a great way to get people of all backgrounds interested in the sciences, and we hope our gallery will help increase science literacy by exhibiting science art and by hosting workshops for scientists in science communication and fun art-sci classes for everyone!
In the past year we’ve hosted more than a half dozen exhibitions and events around Texas in collaboration with universities, museums, scientific organizations, non-profits and even churches, and we’re on to the next step in our evolution: our own brick-and-mortar space that will allow us to expand our programs.
I invite you all to Join Our Evolution and help our gallery evolve into a community space that promotes art-science fusion of all kinds! A contribution at any level will get your name incorporated into a unique work of science-art that will be on permanent display in our gallery space (+ your name on our website). Other thank-you packages start at only $10! Even if you can’t contribute financially, please help us get the word out by sharing our campaign with friends, family and colleagues via email, social media, or by making a comment on our campaign site: artsciencegallery.com/evolve! We promise to get back to creating great biocreative posts when we’re settled into our new space – and thank you so much for your readership and support of this blog for the past couple of years! You’re fantastic!
It’s not often that I have featured poetry here on the biocreativity blog, but there’s a first time for everything. And, there is a lot of great science poetry out there that I hope to feature someday. Thanks to my friend and colleague David Hillis for pointing me toward this one, which was published in the journal Systematic Biology yesterday. This is the first poem published in the journal, and I hope this is a trend that will continue. What are your favorites in science and nature poetry? What are some other journals that are incorporating the arts into their publications?
The Tree of Life
I think that I shall never see
A thing so awesome as the Tree
That links us all in paths of genes
Down into depths of time unseen;
Whose many branches spreading wide
House wondrous creatures of the tide,
Ocean deep and mountain tall,
Darkened cave and waterfall.
Among the branches we may find
Creatures there of every kind,
From microbe small to redwood vast,
From fungus slow to cheetah fast.
As glaciers move, strikes asteroid
A branch may vanish in the void:
At Permian’s end and Tertiary’s door,
The Tree was shaken to its core.
The leaves that fall are trapped in time
Beneath cold sheets of sand and lime;
But new leaves sprout as mountains rise,
Breathing life anew ‘neath future skies.
On one branch the leaves burst forth:
A jointed limb of firework growth.
With inordinate fondness for splitting lines,
Armored beetles formed myriad kinds.
Wandering there among the leaves,
In awe of variants Time conceived,
We ponder the shape of branching fates,
And elusive origins of their traits.
Three billion years the Tree has grown
From replicators’ first seed sown
To branches rich with progeny:
The wonder of phylogeny.
© The Author(s) 2012. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0), which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
I’m not sure what I can say that can add to the loads of creativity of these finalists for Science and AAAS‘s (American Association for the Advancement of Science) 5th Dance Your Ph.D. contest. You can choose your favorite by visiting here and making your selection by October 15th. My hats off to all 36 entrants this year, you are truly inspiring and are the future of fantastic, fun and engaging science communication!
Which one is your favorite!?
Let’s talk landscape ecology today. And contemporary art. In fact, let’s talk about an art project so big, it’s been over 20 years in the making, and it’s the only one to have ever received a federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Just last fall, the Bureau of Land Management gave their final approval for the Over The River project, a temporary art exhibition that will suspend 5.9 miles of translucent fabric over a 42 mile stretch of the Arkansas River between Salida and Cañon City, Colorado. Known for their large-scale structure and monument wrappings, artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude first conceived of Over The River in 1992 and have since been working on details of the project, which include an incredibly lengthy design and permitting process.
OTR is a curious case-study in environmental policy. The federal EIS conducted for this temporary art project was financed entirely by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, a process that often happens without much public attention when it comes to more routinely-conducted activities on public land. The BLM allows many activities conducted by private entities on public lands including livestock grazing, oil and gas development (including hydraulic fracturing), mining and logging on public lands in the region. Most of these projects have not been subject the level of public scrutiny that OTR seems to have received. Nevertheless, Christo continues pursuit of the remaining permits to make OTR a reality. Christo paid for the EIS at an expense to himself of over $6 million, which was conducted over a 2.5 year period by a team of engineers, wildlife biologists and environmental consultants. The plans for OTR now include scheduling the two-week temporary exhibition to avoid major wildlife migrations, nesting seasons and to minimize noise and disturbance in any one place on the river to a minimum during the construction and take-down process.
Interestingly, the NEPA review process calls for environmental design arts and aesthetics to be considered in EIS reviews. As former National Director of the Bureau of Land management Patrick Shea explained in a 2010 letter to the director of the Colorado State Office of the BLM:
“It is striking to remember that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) itself provides that it is the Federal Government’s responsibility to “assure for all Americans safe, healthful, productive, and esthetically and culturally pleasing surroundings”. In order to do this, NEPA states that the federal Government must “utilize a systematic, interdisciplinary approach which will insure the integrated use of the natural and social sciences and the environmental design arts in planning and in decision-making which may have an impact on man’s environment.”
Despite widespread public support for Over The River, there is some opposition to this project from a small local group which seems to simply not want the temporary art exhibition of this scale in their own backyard. Curious to view the area myself, I drove alongside the Arkansas River on my way to Taylor Park Reservoir, Colorado this summer. As I paralleled the Arkansas, I encountered prospectors searching for gold, anglers hopeful for trout, rafting outfitters guiding the adventuresome, cattle grazing, ATV and motorbike trails, freight traffic, agricultural fields and even quarries. And, if you care to look past the immediate roadside to the adjacent landscape, the list of proposed private uses of BLM land out of the Royal Gorge Field Office (can anyone direct me to the list of current uses?) indeed includes energy trasmission, private development right-of-ways, oil and gas development, coal leasing, mining, cattle grazing and christmas tree harvesting.
Why then, I wonder, does the Over The River project seem to have been singled out as a “disturbance of the peace” by a handful of locals? There are certainly activities on our public lands that are much more disturbing to the local ecosystem and to wildlife, including ones with much more long-term consequences than the proposed Over The River project. Is it because Colorado has a long history with mining, fossil fuel extraction, ranching and agriculture? Are these activities therefore more comfortable, commonplace, and acceptable by local residents, despite our current knowledge of how they affect our environment? Is it because art is a much less common use of our public land? Yet, Colorado also has a long and rich history of art, from the artistic traditions of Colorado’s Native American cultures to nineteenth-century geological survey photographer William Henry Jackson and contemporary photographer John Fielder, whose comparative approach to photography has explored how the Colorado landscape has changed since Jackson’s first forays in to the western wilderness (see Colorado 1870-2000). Whatever the reason, just imagine if all activities by private entities on our public lands were held to such a level of public scrutiny as Christo’s temporary art exhibition. It seems that our public lands would be much different places. What do you think?
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, however, are no strangers to opposition of their monumental-scale works. ”This has happened before,” Christo recently told the Denver Post, ”This is a natural process for which we are very familiar.” They seem accustomed to the lengthy permitting processes that accompany their projects, and demonstrate a love of their work, an admiration for public discourse and a level of patience that is itself quite admirable. A recent update from the OTR project page indicates that on-the-ground activities will be delayed yet again, perhaps until August 2015, because of ongoing litigation by a local group against two of the agencies that have approved the project (the BLM and the Colorado State Parks).
The opposition remains small, however, and the Over The River project has gained an incredible list of supporters including the Cañon City Chamber of Commerce and City Council, current and former governors of Colorado and the Colorado Council for the Arts, to name just a few. Since Jeanne-Claude’s passing in 2009, her husband Christo remains dedicated to making Over The River a reality. As an art lover and former Colorado resident, I can’t wait to write a future On The Road post along the Arkansas River, under the shimmering canopy of Over The River. Until then, here is Christo in 2010 talking about the origins of the project back in 1975 as he and Jeanne-Claude were wrapping the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris:
“Over The River perfectly reflects the type of artistic, social, and cultural engagement that public art seeks to create. Public art such as Over The River is by definition meant to provoke reaction by engaging the public outside the framework of a traditional artistic exhibition — outside of the four walls of a museum, and outside of the four corners of a painting.” - Patrick Shea, Former National Director of the Bureau of Land Management