Studio for the Sciences, Lab for the Arts

Since I got to the University of Colorado Boulder, I have been working nonstop along an outstanding team, including professors Tara Knight and Erin Espelie as well as Joanne Guillery on NEST Studio for the Arts’s premiere exhibition, EMBRYONIC, which opened a month ago today and has already welcome around 1,000 guests.


EMBRYONIC presents preexisting, far-flung work, while also bringing local collaborators together anew: a chemist and a ceramicist—Camila Friedman-Gerlicz, an MFA candidate in Art and Art History, and Aaron Lamplugh, a PhD candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, incorporated porous materials such as activated carbon into ceramic surfaces to create simple and elegant air-cleaning art pieces that can be used in nail salons and other toxic indoor environments; a wood sculptor and an ecologist; a hydrologist and a filmmaker. The resulting art can be viewed empirically, contemplatively, immanently, or with a sense of urgency for a world beset with endocrine disruptors, rising sea levels and rampant resource competition. Above all, the work is germinal, full of potential, testing our thresholds for declaring fertile conclusions, intermediaries, and of course: inventive beginnings.

But NEST is much more than an exhibition space, it is a network of faculty, students, centers and both institutional and individual partners—more than 20, and counting—that combine artistic practice and scientific research to explore our common and disparate ways of observing, recording, experimenting and knowing. A network that understands that the arts and the sciences need each other.

It was Carl Sagan who once said that “science is a way of thinking, way more than it is a body of knowledge.” To that, I would add, that art is a way of thinking as well, way more than it is a body of work. Science and art are two complementary ways of thinking about the world inside and around us. We seek excellence in scientific and technological innovation, and in order to achieve it we need to use creativity; and employing the arts is the best way I know to shape it.

Activating Carbon by Camila Friedman-Gerlicz and Aaron Lamplugh

NEST develops exhibitions, teaches undergraduate and graduate courses, funds graduate student’s research and creative work, runs public programs and workshops, and hosts events with the clear mission of celebrating a meaningful and empowering dialogue between the sciences and the arts.

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