US National Endowment for the Arts Art-Science conversation

Dear Art/Science enthusiast!

I wanted to alert you to a conversation around the intersection of art and science that is taking place this week on the NEA’s Art Works blog @

You can see a summary of my introductory post below. Throughout the rest of the week, we’ll be hosting additional posts by art/science enthusiasts Roger Malina, Andrea Grover, Marina McDougal and Whitney Dail.

People interested in learning more about how the NEA can support art/science projects in the future are encouraged to join our art/science mailing list by emailing us at We’d be happy to forward information on our application process and to invite you to join a webinar we will be conducting in the coming months to support applications seeking support for art/science projects.

Feel free forward this alert to anyone in your network you feel would be interested, and please drop in and post your own thoughts to the blog. We’d love to hear from you.


Bill O’Brien\Senior Advisor for Program Innovation
National Endowment for the Arts\ 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Suite 628
Washington, DC 20506\202 682 5550 o\

The Imagine Engine! or Art and Science—a True Story

April 30, 2012

by Bill O’Brien, Senior Advisor for Program Innovation

“Signals,” a collaboration between Casey Reas and Ben Fry, depicts an image where each graphical cluster represents signals between networked proteins in a cancer cell as they change over time.

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious—the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” — Albert Einstein

The fundamental emotion described by Einstein above has been felt by artists and scientists across the eons. Increasingly, artists and scientists are eager to explore creative practices emerging at the intersection of their two fields. Some are motivated by how these ties can spur vibrant new economies for the 21st century. Others are interested in how they may foster creativity in our schools and in more informal settings. Still others share the same motive that likely drove the ‘seeker’ who turned the bone of a vulture into a musical instrument 40,000 years ago; a mysterious quest for beauty and meaning.

Terms like “art/science hybridity.” “inter-disciplinary,” “trans-disciplinary,” and even “anti-disciplinary” have emerged to describe new and fertile terrain that exists outside the confines of our traditional silos. The platforms for these new modes of investigation and expression range from theaters and museums and other traditional performance spaces to research labs, personal computers, health facilities, public squares, hacker spaces, Processing software, maker-faires, and cyberspace.

The “transformative impact of art” is a challenge to define, and tricky to prove. Recent neuro-scientific advances by Nobel Prize-winner Eric Kandel and others have shown that the brain constantly re-wires itself based on how we experience the world in our daily lives. It’s intriguing to think how we may one day (perhaps soon!) be able to build on this work to solve the mystery of what happens at the molecular level when our brain is “on art.” We sense that it enhances our awareness of ourselves, each other, and the world. In profound examples, it radically alters the perceptions of the person experiencing it, infusing them with new insight and understanding. Great moments of scientific discovery can produce similar eurekas. Artists and scientists both chase the exhilaration of “knowing” something new and important. And the urge to share this new knowledge with others is strong.


  1. Thanks for the information. However, this is country-specific. How about an international one? In fact we need an international body to coordinate science art and science based art projects instead of regional ones as this art is becoming ubiquitous. I am thinking of starting one myself! Anyway please send me alerts so that I can report the news on my network which consists of people from all over the world.

  2. Creativity, Vision and Abstraction in Art and Science
    Czech Ceramists in the Galerie Marianne Heller, Heidelberg, 25 June to 30 July 2000

    Ladies and gentlemen,
    It is my great honor and pleasure to be here with you, and open the exhibition of the ten Czech ceramists. There is not often that art exhibition is opened by scientist, but is quiet common that art is in fact presented at many scientific meetings. Let me explain. Art is indeed present at many scientific meetings either in the form of a master pieces or in some other form. Ideas presented to lecture room audiences possess those artistic elements in the form of a vision, creativity and abstraction – all elements which bridge the two institutions of science and art.
    Historically, art and science have had common roots. The evidence is persisting when many famous artists achieved a formal education first in the field of exact science and later on they switched to the art. Despite the fact that during many centuries both activities were separated, and crossed the paths only in the Renaissance, recent discoveries in modern biology, genetic, telecommunications, have canonized science to being a specific kind of art. There is not wonder that working in science, in the molecular biology, genetic fields, or study the mass particle, one deals with virtual reality similar to artistic transformation of the emotion, or impression, into the three-dimensional object. Such scientists just like the artists, share vision, creativity and abstract ideas. Solid, apprehensible reality has vanished. They have become metaphors of relativity and connection. Under this framework the world is imagined as an abstract art.
    Everybody knows that it would be a mistake to ascribe creative power to an inborn talent. Creation begins with vision – to look at everything as though seeing it for the first time, like a child. However, the creation is mostly understood as the only artist’s true function. Creativity may be nothing more than an unusual juxtaposition of two very dissimilar things, leading from a treatment for one disease to a cure for another very different condition. It may be an artist combining totally unrelated elements in an artistic piece like ceramic example before us, to challenge the thinking of viewers.
    In realm of scientific activity the most revolutionary ideas were born when untraditional approaches were taken to come up with the whole new concept. An artist, as well as a scientist, takes from our surroundings everything that can nourish his or her internal vision. The artist enriches himself internally with all the forms he has mastered in past, and set this background to a new rhythm. It is in the expression of this rhythm that the artist’s work becomes really creative. The scientist enriches himself or herself internally with the inherited knowledge from the past extended by self study, social milieu and the passion for discovery. To create means to express what we possess within ourselves. Although art can be viewed as a more emotional expression and science a more rational one, both have in common the unlimited horizon and unfinished process of searching for new solutions. Great love is needed to achieve this – a love capable of inspiring and sustaining that patient yearning towards truth and analytic profundity that accompanies the birth of any work of art and science. Only great masterpieces and discoveries survive today and accompanying us as a milestones along the evolution of creative of the mankind.
    Culture is a core part of our identities as human beings, connected to our root assumption about life and the world, to our ancestors, and to the fundamental text of our social world. That is a basic platform from which presented masterpieces of ten Czech artists originate. Both ceramic and porcelain could be categorized as an Earth Art, using the clay as a tool for artist’s interpretation of the essence of nature rather than exact duplication of nature. The great variety of styles, topics, feelings, state of the souls and skills are in front of you, which due to this diversity I call portfolio. Every peace is asking for your attention. Here is sweet, ironical view on the faulty human behavior. The next is reminiscence on the past, either holiday or historical memory. The abstract forms are experimental approaches to test the material on its capacity to express the most sensitive state of the mind and soul.
    The art has not final determination, the fixed is only start point but final destination is up to you. The start point is piece of the art, his interpretation depends on your experiences, state of the mind, spiritual sensitivity and your fantasy. Everything is worthy of your attention, each piece will do imprint into your internal life and brings you to happiness.

    “Only Spirit when breath in the clay, may create the Man”
    (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
    “Creativity is the fun of putting together unexpected ideas”
    (Hazel Edwards)

    June 15, 2000
    Dr. Michal Giboda