Scientists teach research through art, film

For the first time, Sigma Xi’s annual conference at the Monona Terrace incorporated art into education at the STEM Art and Film festival Sunday, when the public was invited to explore science, technology, engineering and math through visual arts.

On the conference’s last day, a variety of lectures and exhibits were available for public enjoyment. Jamie Vernon, Sigma Xi’s executive director, said that for those who might be turned away from science because of its complexity, art is a tool for communication.

“Art is a way of communicating with people from all backgrounds,” Vernon said. “For people who might be turned away from science because it’s a little complex, we’re trying to include the universe of options in the art world to communicate some of the science we’ve been spotlighting.”

Between art, film and jewelry, scientists have found a way to express themselves through a new medium. Artist and the Prairie Enthusiasts volunteer Ron Endres said he’s seen scientists go to playwrights to explain their scientific discoveries.

Endres makes native seed necklaces out of seed that he collects. He’s working with the Prairie Enthusiasts in an effort to rehabilitate local prairies. He said that when he first started selling the necklaces, not everyone believed he could be successful.

“Art is an expression and people want to express what they support,” Endres said. “It’s like wearing a T-shirt that shows your favorite team.”

And above all, Endres said, it’s about education. He’s not trying to sell his necklaces to people who already know about the prairies. He said his necklaces spark a conversation.

Vernon said Sigma Xi plans to continue its annual conference, and that it might include another art festival next year.

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