president's noteFall 2016
"By connecting the insights of scientists and artists to explore the human experience, we can create innovative and meaningful experiences for audiences of all ages."

Photo: Martha Rial
One of the most important intellectual directions of our lifetimes has been “interdisciplinarity,” the recognition that we can understand and appreciate the world most profoundly by looking at spaces where traditional disciplines meet. You’ve encountered this kind of interdisciplinary thinking if you’ve read about behavioral economics or sociobiology, or the optical experiments of the Dutch painter Vermeer. Physics in conjunction with art history. Biology with sociology. Psychology with economics.

At Carnegie Museums we describe this meeting and connecting of disciplines as the “nexus” of arts and sciences. (We talked about our two new “nexus” staff positions in the fall 2015 issue of the magazine.) Carnegie Museums is uniquely positioned to bring the perspectives of the natural sciences, visual arts, physical sciences, and performing arts to bear on compelling ideas and phenomena. In fact, from my first acquaintance with Carnegie Museums, I’ve seen this as our most distinctive advantage and exciting opportunity. By connecting the insights of scientists and artists to explore the human experience, we can create innovative and meaningful experiences for audiences of all ages.

This nexus is visible across our museums every day. At Carnegie Science Center’s Fab Lab, all users work with digital technology and engineering concepts— some using them to make art. Recent exhibitions at Carnegie Museum of Art have emphasized the scientific tools used to understand a painting’s history and the way the optics of color perception influence our experience with works of art. A new offering at Carnegie Museum of Natural History illustrates how early dioramas functioned as both scientific illustration and decorative art, while the upcoming Warhol: My Perfect Body show (see page 18) will consider how medical and cultural conditions affect representations of physical beauty.

Our nexus program is bringing new focus and energy to interdisciplinary explorations across our four museums. One example is highlighted on page 24: a series of programs on the body involving three exhibitions and programming at all four museums. Titled “Body Boundaries,” the museums’ offerings will give visitors multiple opportunities to explore understandings of the human body from both scientific and artistic perspectives.

A century ago, art museums invited visitors to learn about art, and science museums invited visitors to learn about science. Today museums of all kinds invite visitors to think about human experience and the world in which we live—which often requires thinking at the nexus of art and science. Carnegie Museums is positioned to be at the forefront of this powerful approach to museum programming, taking advantage of our unique assets to develop interdisciplinary, cross-museum public dialogue on all kinds of important issues.

Jo Ellen Parker, President & CEO
Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh




Also in this issue:

Organizing Delirium  ·  My Perfect, Imperfect Body  ·  Body Boundaries  ·  A Woman's World  ·  LIGHTIME  ·  NewsWorthy  ·  Face Time: Laura Micco  ·  Artistic License: Making Some Noise  ·  Travel Log  ·  The Big Picture