In our culture of specialization and compartmentalization, it's easy to think of art and science as mutually exclusive categories.
Bloomington's WonderLab seeks to dissolve the boundary between these categories.
Just inside the door of Bloomington's hands-on science museum, visitors of all ages are challenged to think beyond the art/science duality with an installation that might best be described as "that Rube Goldberg machine that plays Stardust."
Inside the "Kinetic Contraption", as this custom-made sculpture is called, little balls traverse a circuitous route across catwalks, down chutes, and over a xylophone, which occasionally plays Hoagy Carmichael's best-known composition. Visitors post themselves around the sculpture to influence the ball's path by turning wheel s and pulling levers.
Whether it's a piece of art, or a whimsical exploration of physics and probability, it's definitely a signature piece for Bloomington's hands-on science museum.
Activities and exhibitions at the WonderLab tend to blur the distinctions between learning and playing, science and art. A current program, in fact seeks to underscore the affinities between the disciplines.
"To be a scientist, you have to be incredibly creative," explained Martina Celerin, one of the artists who will be demonstrating her artistic process as part of WonderLab's Art and Science of Color program. "You have to think outside the box, you have to try and visualize where you're going; and with art, it's very much experimental to try and demonstrate what you're trying to express."
With a Ph.D. in molecular genetics, Celerin, who is also a fiber artist, should know.
Each weekend during February a different artist will offering interactive demonstrations for visitors of all ages. A painter will demonstrate how she mixes pigments and a theatrical troupe will showcase the magic of lighting design.
On the second weekend, mosaicist Christina Knipstine presents the program "Small Dots, Big Picture". The inspiration for Knipstine's mosaics is eclectic-from the paintings of Chuck Close and Georges Seurat to scientific models-from fractals to satellite photos of the earth.
Knipstine is particularly suited to demonstrate her work for a young audience. Having homeschooled her five children, she knows that learning happens in an interactive, interdisciplinary way. Her children have gone on to careers ranging from the humanities to astrophysics.
"Pigeonholing science and art as separate entities," Celerin noted, "is really not reflective of what a lot of people are like."
Nonetheless , the artists agreed, people seem to lose this flexibility as they become adults.
So, WonderLab is creating a situation that might allow grownups, bringing their kids to play, to stumble upon their creativity.
The Art and Science of Color opens at the WonderLab this Friday, February 5th with an evening program during which visitors will be invited to participate in a community art project that will be installed in WonderLab's outdoor garden on the B-Line Trail.