Arabella Proffer is not your typical painter. She is one of the talented artists merging science and art as part of Lorain County Community College’s Full STEAM Ahead exhibit at the Beth K. Stocker Art Gallery. Her bio-inspired paintings feature organic designs presented alongside other innovative artwork showcasing the intersection of art and technology through fine arts, digital art and fab lab technologies.
The traditional STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) infuse with the arts to create STEAM. The goal is that adding the arts to the hard sciences encourages a new way of looking at the world. The March 2 reception for Full STEAM Ahead: An Exhibit of Art and Technology allowed student, faculty and professional artists to explore the integration of the arts and sciences while encouraging education, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Artist Proffer is not just an artist—she’s a medical arts instructor, teacher, wife – and a two-time cancer survivor.
She completed the colorful biomorphic organism-themed painting series while going through cancer treatment. When doctors showed her the scan from her second bout of tumors, she was shocked to find that the image looked nearly identical to one of the surreal pieces she painted three months prior, tentacles and all, on display at the Stocker exhibit.
“The series brings together my interests in botany, microbiology, monsters, space, disease and the evolution of cells,” Proffer said. “Within those interests, I explore the particular roles that organisms, medicine, DNA and hybrids play, all while creating from my own imagination and instinct.”
In addition to creating paintings, Proffer also works with local schools as a teaching artist to again unite the arts and sciences for medical students. By looking closely and objectively at artwork, students acquire skills that make them better able to look beyond the charts in their work with patients
Proffer is just one of the local artists and college staff and faculty whose art is on display. Today educational leaders are recognizing on a large scale the importance of integrating the arts and sciences, technology, engineering and math. Origami by James Peake of FAVA (Firelands Association for the Visual Arts) and Fold Studio in Oberlin shows the natural connection between art and STEM. This ancient paper-folding art form has been studied extensively by mathematicians, scientists and artists, and teachers are using it to teach concepts in math, chemistry, physics and architecture. Origami folds and patterns have also been transferred to building and furniture design and used by NASA in space.
“STEAM education is part of a growing national movement that recognizes the power of the arts to foster creativity and innovation,” exhibit curator Joan Perch said. “By integrating the arts in STEM learning, we better prepare students by providing them with all the critical skills required for success in the 21st century innovation economy.”
Perch even got in on the show herself as an artist. The show features work she completed with students with FireFish Arts through its STEAM Academy, festival and the LCCC Summer STEAM Camp, along with some of the other exhibitors. The nonprofit celebrates the arts through event-based civic engagement in the Lorain community with the goal of a renewed creative economy. LCCC is a partner of the initiative.
Other college staff members are also involved in the exhibit. LCCC math instructor Katie Dobeck has two black and white drawings in the gallery. Some of her students were excited to see her work firsthand at the reception. Even though she teaches STEM, she took an art class at LCCC and fell in love with the arts. Her class artwork on display both won awards in the 2016 LCCC Student Art Show. Additionally, Dobeck’s husband has his own fab lab, a small-scale workshop.
The exhibit’s art isn’t restricted to paintings and drawings; it also includes computer and 3D art. LCCC professor of digital design Gregory Little’s “Body and Blood” large computational art references the “transubstantiation” of the change of bread and wine into body and blood. The large display shows the molecular elements of bread, wine, body and blood morphing into genetic splices. The virtual models twirl and mutate within the imagery.
Additionally Mike Zeller’s computer monitor display exhibit explores moving circles and audio that changes throughout the day and seasons. “In a way, this is sort of a clock,” he said. The screen gets darker in the evening. He teaches computer information systems at LCCC. Another exhibit highlight is Kevin Jackson, who provides technical support for LCCC’s Distance Learning program. He showcases the creative side of his work through a digital projection mapping installation.
The exhibit comes at a time when many LCCC courses are using the campus Fab Lab and exploring technical on-campus tools. “We also hope to spark conversations about this growing intersection of the arts and science, technology, engineering and math with the larger community as LCCC launches the expanded campus maker space and P. C. Campana Center for Idea and Ideation,” Perch said. Laser and 3D printed objects created at the LCCC Fab Lab are included in the exhibit, and some exhibit art includes laser technologies by student Fab Lab assistant Ryan Corrigan.
Other featured artists include LCCC instructors Nancy Halbrooks and Catherine Rozmarynowycz, LCCC’s Unity Lab members and Dennis Ryan’s graphic design students. Featured regional artists Ann Bort and Carolyn Ballou have work included, along with student STEAM projects.
The Stocker Arts Center is located at 1005 N. Abbe Road, Elyria, Ohio on the campus of Lorain County Community College. Visit stockerartscenter.com for more information.
Full STEAM Ahead will be on exhibit to the public through March 24. Gallery hours are Mondays through Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. or at other times by appointment.