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Simons Center Opens, Art Outreach Still Under Construction

Photo Credit: Flickr

As mathematicians and physicists contemplate complex equations in the newly opened Simons Center for Geometry and Physics, artists and art lovers are still waiting for the Center’s art outreach program to be completed.

When finished, the art outreach will include an exhibition space, an art studio and a resident artist. The area, located on the first floor of the building, is only partially finished. Large pieces are already on display, but the studio is still under construction. The program, run by Nina Douglass, is planned to open in February of 2011 and is meant to analyze the relationship between the arts and the sciences.

The first exhibition for the program involved artwork done by Stony Brook art students. Students enrolled in Theory and Practice of Digital Art: Print, taught by Takaumi Ide, were given the opportunity to submit works for the exhibit. Douglass asked students to create pieces that explored all the connections between art and science, accompanied with a short passage explaining their piece.  The exhibition was planned to be on display only for the opening of the Simon Center in early November, but Douglass said she liked the prints so much that she bought them for $50 each to keep them for the program.

“It’s just so different and so amazing to just look at the picture and read the words and many times if you just look at the picture you cannot imagine what the student is going to say,” Douglass said. “Then you read the text and look at the work again and you say, ‘gee why didn’t I see that?’”

Douglass approached Ide for the Center’s first exhibition at the beginning of the semester. Ide has held a competition for students in his class for the past four semesters. When Douglass brought the idea for the exhibition to him, he thought turning it into a small competition would work well, as Douglass would choose what pieces to display in the center. According to Ide, 14 out of the 20 students in his class submitted work for the competition. In the end, all of the prints were chosen.

Not only did the students provide artwork for the Center, but they participated in a “real life” learning experience. Director of the Digital Arts minor Stephanie Dinkins said that through this exercise, students learned how to ask for compensation for their work.

“A lot of times in our society art isn’t valued and so it’s a way to train other people on the outside and the students, that the work they do as creators is valued and valuable and so they can put that back into their practices,” said Dinkins.

Both Dinkins and Ide said that they look forward to collaborating with the Simons Center in the future. Douglass hopes for collaboration on an even bigger scale. She hopes to work not only with the art department but with the computer science and theater departments. Douglass is hoping to utilize equipment in the Computer Science building, including the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment technology, more commonly known as CAVE, an immersive reality environment created by projectors in a room-sized cube. She also plans to have theater students read the Life of Galileo for the official opening of the program in February.

“I was thinking that one of the purposes of the art outreach program could be to get the digital arts to actually make connections between all these departments,” Douglass said. “Force the people to get together and actually do something and make better use of this equipment because this equipment is going to be old tomorrow. Let’s use it now!”

Tony Phillips, the chair of the art department and chair of a faculty board on arts and sciences, is also involved in the building of the art outreach program in the Simons Center. He agrees with Dinkins and Ide that the center will bring more opportunities to students on campus.

“It will provide students an opportunity to participate in things over there,” Phillips said. “There’s going to be an exhibition space, there are going to be resident artists over there. Those are things that will enhance the artistic life on campus.”

Phillips helped Douglass create a print that stands on one of the walls in the first floor. He checked the mathematics and physics of the equations in the print, but he admits that he got some things wrong, including Kepler’s Law.  He plans to continue to work on the print to fix the inaccuracies.

As the studio and exhibition space are still under construction, Douglass says plans are in place to have the most up-to-date 3D and 2D design programs. Resident artists will work in a clean studio and digital art will be the main focus of the program.

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