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NOVA-Manassas exhibition combines art with science

Oil paintings by Taylor Conrad appear in “The Creative Mind: The Intersection of Art and Science” exhibition at the Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.

An exhibition at the Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College called “The Creative Mind: The Intersection of Art and Science” features art by students Taylor Conrad of Falls Church, Lam Duong of Fairfax, and Katherine Herbst of Alexandria.

The artworks are the results of a NOVA project designed to integrate art with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Conrad used her art to represent biological processes, Duong focused on the neurobiology of vision and Herbst depicted the geology of the Chesapeake Bay. Two students painted with oil on canvas and one chose pastels and chalk.

NOVA Associate Professor of Science Gillian Backus explained the project. “Our STEM to STEAM initiative was started primarily by former Art Professor Rebecca Kamen. I had worked with Rebecca in my newly conceived cross-disciplinary science course on the theme of water and Rebecca gave a guest lecture on water and art. Little did I know that she had already been bitten by the science bug.”

When Kamen retired last year, she requested that leftover grant money be used to fund a faculty learning community focused on STEAM. Faculty met weekly to discuss STEAM as a faculty development opportunity and this developed into a student project that was offered as a pilot course in fall 2013.

“Students in NOVA’s Honors program were given the chance to participate in the initial course which was cross-listed in every discipline offered, allowing students to earn one credit in whichever discipline they liked,” Backus said.

Each student benefitted from two faculty mentors: one from art and one from science. The student was responsible for conceptualizing and executing a project that was then exhibited as a final project during exam week.

“Some students came with great art background while others did not. The art and science mentors guided the students, helping them conceive, shape and execute their projects. But these art projects were truly from the minds of the students,” Backus said. “The faculty learned a lot as well. They worked as a cross-disciplinary team, collectively deciding how to grade the student’s progress and final exhibit. People in different disciplines talked to each other and the departmental silos were disabled.”

The show will be on display until Sept. 26 in the Colgan Hall gallery at NOVA-Manassas, 6901 Sudley Road. The gallery is open to the public 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, email blash@nvcc.edu or call 703-257-6657.

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.