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Historical Interconnectedness of Art and Science

In previous centuries art and science were regarded as complimentary activities and many of the best artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, were also competent scientists, and vice versa. Today art and science seem to have grown apart and, in general, the public finds art to be more accessible than science.

Art as a medium for Science Education

Within the international science centre community there is, however,  a different mindset. Exhibit designers realize that there is a strong interface between art, design and science education (especially in the environmental sciences) and that art can convey complex messages and articulate emotions that scientists are not able to express easily in words. The easier accessibility of art has made us realize that we need to use art and science in partnership in order to demystify complex messages and make them more accessible to the general public.

Art’s role in Environmental Awareness

Art transcends cultures and disciplines and provides a means whereby millions of people who choose not to listen to the message of science can become better informed about, for instance, the environmental crisis. Art helps people to change their mindsets, their behaviour and their lifestyles, and to tread more softly on the planet. Most importantly, it causes them to become ambassadors for the conservation cause.

Artistic Expression and Social Commentary

Art also helps us to recognize that we are irrevocably entwined within natural processes and that our role in Nature is to understand and work in harmony with Nature, not to conquer it. In addition, artists are often the first to oppose binary prejudices, such as racism, pro- and anti-environmental attitudes, or xenophobia and xenophilia, and rather use them as opportunities to portray the kaleidoscopic continuum between extremes.

Art and Science Festivals: A Fusion of Creativity and Discovery

The organizers of art and science festivals have also recognized the symbiotic relationship between the arts and the sciences. At the 2018 National Arts Festival in Makhanda, South Africa, over 70% of the artworks and performances were on scientific subjects. At the National Science Festival, SciFest Africa, at the same venue, many of the displays and experiences communicated their messages through the arts (science theatre, science shows, dance, puppets, paintings, sculptures and poetry).

Art Galleries Embracing Environmental Themes

Art gallery owners have also seen the light. The Art@Africa gallery on the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town promotes artists who address environmental themes, such as the importance of recycling, climate change, global warming and the conservation of biodiversity. This gallery also prides itself on the development of digital experiences, including augmented reality, that allow its clients to discover and interrogate art in another realm. It is no surprise that the owner of the gallery, Belgian Dirk Durnez, has a strong science and technology background and has extensive experience in developing science centres and museums.

formula D_’s Approach: Integrating Art and Design for Science Communication

formula D_ is acutely aware of the benefits of using art and design to communicate the complex messages of science. The Wonderdal Children’s Education Centre that the company created at the Hazendal wine estate near Cape Town is a fantastical journey that children follow through a magical environment. Without realizing it, they learn about sustainable living. As the highly respected American children’s book author, Lloyd Alexander, once wrote, “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it”.  Or, as Dr Suess said, “Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope”.

formula D_’s multi-media interactive experiences in the Frost Museum of Science in Miami, Florida, and the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town also placed a strong emphasis on attractive visual design and impactful sensory experiences. After all, over 95% of the sensory input into our brains comes through our eyes. A strong emphasis on art, design and visual imagery is one of formula D_’s key success factors.