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The Carletonian

Science, art and history combined in teaching museum

< new exhibition spaces have made their way onto Carleton’s campus via the Weitz Center for Creativity.  This term’s exhibits connect Carleton students, faculty and members of the Northfield community through science, art and history in an effort to inspire visual learning and conversation.

“The Teaching Museum is so called because the art and exhibitions presented there are not ‘art for art’s sake,’” said Laurel Bradley, the director and curator for the Perlman Teaching Museum,“but are rather catalysts to conversation and further learning about all sorts of issues and ideas.” 

The exhibit includes drawings, old maps, interactive digital exhibits, new media, photography and images taken from Goodsell observatory. “My goal was to explore the connection between science and art by conducting a sort of visual dialogue around artistic and scientific methods based in the visual,” explained Bradley.

It is difficult to enter the exhibit without being drawn to the large glowing sculpture off in a corner. Created by Philadelphia-based artist Tristan Lowe, the neon sculpture, Comet: God Particle was inspired by the scientific speculation that comets brought water and life to Earth.  Texan artist Matthew Cusick combines the cosmos with the spiritual realm by painting a celestial and religious montage.  Referencing the Bible, Islam, Greek mythology and even Atheism, Cusick painted various religious motifs and scenes behind constellations he created from targets at the shooting ranges in his hometown.

Next door to Seeing is Knowing: the Universe is the second gallery containing 30 black and white photographs of the Northfield Middle School before it was transformed into the Weitz Center for Creativity.  The photos, collectively called Middle School were taken by Cinema and Media Studies professor and well-known photographer John Schott.

“The building scared me,” Schott admitted, talking about the time when only he had access to the vacant middle school, a year before construction began.  Before entering for the first time, he had anticipated a romantic abandoned old building.  Instead he found a place where everything of value had been removed and sold.  Propping doors open for fear of getting locked in, he set about exploring the “bowels of the building,” as he called them, and taking photographs.  He referred to his work as “very direct” in the style of documentary photography.   There’s careful attention to light, patterns and detail in each image, as well as the past or future purpose of the space.

 “A photo can connect with so many people,” Schott said, describing how an image can triangulate, affecting various people through memory.

“The pictures are about the middle school of your imagination,” he added, explaining how the aura of the school was reminiscent of an older era.  “If you are of a certain generation, in your 50s, 60s, or 70s, then the school in those photographs is the one you went to.”

Seeing is Knowing: the Universe and Middle School run until Nov 16.  At that time, two new exhibits will be brought in to take their place for the duration of winter term. 

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