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The Creative Mind: The Intersection of Art and Science on display at NOVA-Loudoun

An unusual art show opened May 19 and will continue until June 20 in Waddell Art Gallery at the Loudoun Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. 

Works by Laurie Campbell of Reston, Taylor Conrad of Falls Church, Lam Duong of Fairfax, and Katherine Herbst and Gregg Miller of Alexandria are featured in “The Creative Mind: The Intersection of Art and Science.”

The exhibition reflects a movement at NOVA to integrate art with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“Our STEM to STEAM initiative was started primarily by former Art Professor Rebecca Kamen,” said Gillian Backus, an associate professor of science at NOVA. “I had worked with Rebecca in my newly conceived cross-disciplinary science course on the theme of water. 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. 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.”

Two students decided to use oil on canvas, one chose pastels and chalk, another created with pottery and glazing, and another used AutoCad to learn sophisticated computer graphics and animation.

Herbst focused on depicting the geology of the Chesapeake Bay, Miller illustrated his concept of black holes, Duong created a project focusing on the neurobiology of vision and Campbell concentrated on understanding the art of zebrafish embryology. Conrad decided to use her art to represent the “nasty, icky” biological processes that are taboo to speak about.

Waddell Art Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday at NOVA’s Loudoun Campus, 21200 Campus Drive, Sterling, VA 20164. To learn more, contact Backus at gbackus@nvcc.edu.

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 NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.