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Workshop Uses Art as a Tool to Explore and Communicate Scientific Ideas

 molaro sci art workshop

PSI’s Jamie Molaro, standing, chats with workshop attendees (from left) Michelle Wooten, Allison McGraw, and Oriel Humes about their space art projects.


Twenty-five people gathered in Tucson to interpret scientific themes, data, and images and transform them into art at the Making Space Workshop on Space, SciArt, and Society organized by PSI’s Jamie Molaro. 

The event included talks by experts on recent discoveries in planetary science, discussion of how and why humans explore space, and art-making activities that explore how similar science and art truly are. Artists, educators, and scientists from across the country used a wide variety of materials, including paint, collages, clay, and even poetry and video to create science-related art during the three-day event at the Catalyst Arts & Maker Space at the Tucson Mall. 

“This workshop is about using art as a tool to both explore and communicate scientific ideas,” said Molaro, an award-winning space artist. “By teaching artists techniques for incorporating scientific information and spacecraft data into art, it gives them the opportunity to actually participate in space exploration on their own terms and to share their discoveries with others.” 

Michelle Wooten, who teaches astronomy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, attended to learn how to use art as a tool to let her students better understand astronomy. 

Attendees were given multiple themes and images and asked to produce art on those topics. When completed, they met in groups to share and explain their how their artistic works reflected the process of scientific exploration. They also completed directed art “labs” which modeled how to create works that communicated things they learned. Attendees are now tasked with designing their own science-driven works to be displayed at an exhibition later in the year. 

“As an artist I’ve always felt alienated by science even though I was interested in it,” said participant Violet Brand. “But now I feel like this workshop has broken down barriers between science and art that I had put up for myself and I can interact with the world in a completely new way.” 

A number of artists and planetary scientists, including PSI’s Amanda Sickafoose, gave presentations at the event. 

PSI’s Sanlyn Buxner supported the event, which was partially funded by TREX, Toolbox for Research and Exploration program funded by NASA through PSI. 

gravity art examples

Workshop participants share and compare their artwork prompted by the theme gravity.

April 24, 2022
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