SSHRC Awards Inter-disciplinary Project Led By CBU Researcher

A research project, Avatars of Human Creativity: Exploring the Art-Sci Connect, focused on the connectivity between arts and science and how innovation and creativity are applied to science, has been awarded $24,992 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Led by Dr. Barb Glassey, Department of Biology, Cape Breton University (CBU), the project will explore how connecting art and science can lead to a new way of learning. The principle of Two-Eyed Seeing, a term coined by Elder Albert Marshall, will also provide the opportunity to explore how Indigenous art intersects with science.

“I’m excited at the opportunity to work with leaders in an emerging field, and to bring new ideas to educators, artists, and the community. Funding from SSHRC will bring experts from across the country to Cape Breton and it will be used to transport artwork to provide real-world examples of the use of art in science and science in art,” says Dr. Glassey.

The SSHRC grant will be matched with dollars from CBU and in-kind support from CBU and The Lumiére Arts Festival Association totalling an additional $21,750.

The team will explore the art-science connections via The Art-Sci Gallery Exhibit, Bioart Workshops and the STEAM Conference. STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) is a rapidly growing area whereby art is incorporated in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

The conference will focus on two themes: Art and the Natural World, where speakers will talk about subjects such as connecting artistic practices, using metal to create metal insects and creating a BioArt hybrid laboratory, and STEM to STEAM: Communicating Art-Sci – the application of art to scientific learning, education and research.

The art exhibit will feature the artistic practice of three of the conference speakers whose works have in common that they reflect the natural world and intersect with one of the STEM fields. For example, Elizabeth Goluch is a metalsmith whose artistic practice incorporates research on insects to generate accurate representations of anatomy, lifecycle, and ecology. She will be presenting one-of-a-kind, larger-than-life, highly detailed metal insects that reference elements of insect life, lore and environment. Jordan Bennett, a contemporary Indigenous artist whose cultural identity is a significant aspect of his artistic practice, will be presenting new media artwork that incorporates computer technology.

The BioArt Workshops, led by Dr. Jennifer Willet, Director of the hybrid INCUBATOR Lab, will introduce bioart, an emerging field that combines scientific processes and materials with artistic practice to produce biology-inspired art. Bioart communicates general scientific principles and provides an opportunity for discussion about topical issues by connecting art and science.

From a Two-Eyed Seeing context, the research team will also connect contributors of Aboriginal identity and heritage with artists, researchers, educators and the public to address new ways of learning through cross-cultural exchange.

The events are being held in November and are aimed at secondary and post-secondary educators, scholars and students, organizations and businesses in the community.

“I worked closely on the grant with Karie Liao in her former position as CBU Art Gallery curator, which was an insightful and rewarding inter-disciplinary experience that taught me a great deal about the synergy and communication between individuals from artistic and scientific backgrounds. The opportunity for me to co-curate an exhibit as a scientific researcher reflects the support and inter-disciplinary direction of the university,” says Dr. Glassey.  The project planning benefited greatly from the expertise and guidance of co-investigator Dr. Arja Vainio-Mattila, and the creative energy of co-investigators Dr. Dana Mount and Dr. Katherine Jones, and collaborator Ms. Catherine Arseneau.