Science and Technology

Connecting the arts and STEM

New murals in ISAT/CS depict science themes

Cameron Ritcher
Earth Systems and Climate Change mural by Cameron Ritcher

SUMMARY: Cameron Ritcher, a senior majoring in studio art, created artwork for each floor of the ISAT building that creatively illustrates the studies conducted by students and professors in the field.

By Brett Seekford

On the third floor of the ISAT building, a new mural was recently installed along one of the main corridors. The abstract work, which sits vertically against the wall, features images that Anonymity in the Digital Age mural remind viewers of several scientific phenomena, such as the water cycle and cellular processes. The piece was created by Cameron Ritcher, a senior majoring in studio art, who was hired to produce artwork on each floor of the ISAT building that would creatively illustrate the studies conducted by students and professors in the field.

Ritcher’s commissioning is part of a broader effort by the College of Integrated Science and Engineering (CISE) to connect the arts to science, engineering and technology disciplines. With a rise in academic literature suggesting color and imagery are integral to the learning process, the college hopes to encourage creativity among its students through the production of art in the building.

Anonymity in the Digital Age

“While it may seem counterintuitive, the study of engineering or technology requires creativity just as do the disciplines in the arts,” said Bob Kolvoord, the Dean of CISE. “Beyond making the ISAT/CS building more visually appealing, we hope these murals will inspire creativity in students and faculty as they work in our laboratories and classrooms.“

Ritcher began working with the college after Kolvoord reached out to Kathy Schwartz, the Director of the School of Art, Design and Art History (SADAH), to see if a student would be available to produce artwork. She recommended Ritcher, who soon began planning with Kolvoord, Schwartz and other faculty.

Patterns of Energy, Life, and Technology muralOnce the decision to install murals on all three levels of the building was finalized, Ritcher started considering his artistic process and designs. In consultation with Kolvoord, he chose to align the content of each work with the corresponding program areas of each floor, efforts complemented by his individual research into STEM topics. He also met with the CISE Student Advisory Board and continues to receive feedback from mentors in SADAH as he finishes the project.

In terms of the materials being used in this process, he employed masking tape to form clean, defined shapes and applied both latex house paint and spray paint. He has incorporated screen-printing at times as well.

Patterns of Energy, Life, and Technology

“My goal for the project is to create something that is bold, exciting, and fun, that is conducive to an environment of learning and researching. The purpose of my work is to spark a curiosity in the viewer about the incredibly fascinating world around us,” Ritcher explained.

These commissioned murals play a role in CISE’s ongoing efforts to connect the arts and STEM, which have seen engineering faculty members partnering with colleagues in industrial design and engineering students working on projects with students in the School of Theatre and Dance and the School of Music. This art will also brighten up the monochromatic ISAT building while serving as a testament to the important contributions made to the world by artists.

“Cameron’s hiring was the next step in a multi-step journey,” Kolvoord said. “His work serves as a statement of the importance of the arts, that they are as important as STEM, and that both areas are connected and related.”

Published: Thursday, May 11, 2017

Last Updated: Monday, January 29, 2018

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