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Bridging disciplines

Artist-in-residency program fosters relationship between art and science

Student Life

By Melanie Callahan

A new artist-in-residence program at the Boreal Ecosystem Research Initiative (BERI) is extending the concept of the traditional art classroom to the science lab.

Ashley Hemmings, a third-year visual arts student from Conception Bay South, began her Grenfell Campus artist residency in May.

Ashley Hemmings with one of her creations.
Photo: Melanie Callahan

The internship began through a conversation with visual arts instructor Barb Hunt and Dr. Raymond Thomas, a researcher with BERI.

In February, Prof. Hunt brought her drawing class to the BERI labs, where Dr. Thomas gave the students a tour. Afterwards, the class spent some time sketching what they had seen.

“This was a wonderful experiential learning experience for the students and they were inspired by the labs in terms of the space, the equipment and the work being carried out,” said Dr. Thomas.

“Much of the lab’s work is visual so there are inherently strong links between science and art in these labs. This sort of interdisciplinary collaboration and research is desirable helping to build bridges between the science and arts.”

From left are Ashley Hemmings and Dr. Raymond Thomas in the BERI lab at Grenfell Campus.
From left are Ashley Hemmings and Dr. Raymond Thomas in the BERI lab at Grenfell.
Photo: Melanie Callahan

First piece

As part of the creative process, Ms. Hemmings spends time observing the scientists at work in the lab using the equipment. She sketches while in the room, then heads back to the studio to transfer her ideas into artistic pieces.

Primarily, Ms. Hemmings works in textiles and printmaking. She recently completed her first piece: a small, textile-based flower pot.

“This piece is about the relationship between what goes in your stomach and how it affects our behaviour.” — Ashley Hemmings

She will plant a seed in the pot representative of how the way a person is both nourished and influenced by what they eat.

“One thing we’ve talked about is how what you eat affects the way you think, the activity in your brain,” said Ms. Hemmings. “This piece is about the relationship between what goes in your stomach and how it affects our behaviour.”

‘Gaining insight’

The artist-in-residency program is intended to give the student invaluable experiential learning experience relating to their art practice to a real-world environment and goals.

“The work being carried out by the BERI labs is directly beneficial to Newfoundland and Labrador, so students like Ms. Hemmings are gaining insight into broader issues pertinent to this province and are then able to share their perspective on these issues through their own artistic interpretations,” said Dr. Thomas.

Ms. Hemmings’s work will be used in consultation with the BERI researchers to give them perspectives on their work. She will give a talk about her experience and/or exhibit their work following the completion of the residency at the end of June.

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