Art and science project highlights importance of not blowing off STEAM




KALAMAZOO, Mich—Whether art imitates life or life imitates art is a question for philosophers to hash out. But that art imitates chemistry is no question in a unique collaboration at Western Michigan University.


The STEAM Collaboration project, funded in part by a grant from the Chemical Measurement and Instrumentation program of the National Science Foundation’s Chemistry Division, brings together students from the Gwen Frostic School of Art, WMU School of Music and Department of Chemistry. It challenges the groups to develop original works of art based on analysis by mass spectrometry.


“This is, as far as I know, the only event of its kind where students from visual art, music composition and chemistry collaborate so closely, in the sense that both the chemists and artists are involved throughout the entire process” says Dr. Andre Venter, an associate professor of chemistry who leads the project alongside Patrick Wilson, an associate professor of art and Dr. Lisa Coons, an assistant professor of composition.


“STEM students are not well prepared for the creative needs that a future career in science requires,” says Venter. “Too often our science students are trained to follow recipes, yet, to quote Albert Einstein, ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.'”


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