Manassas Exhibition Combines Art with Science

Manassas Exhibition Combines Art With Science

Manassas Exhibition Combines Art with Science
Barbara Lash, Gillian Backus and Rosemary Gallick collaborated to bring “The Creative Mind” art show to the Manassas Campus.

The NOVA community is invited to the Manassas Campus on September 3 at 12:00 p.m. for a reception in honor of “The Creative Mind: The Intersection of Art and Science.” The art show features the results of a NOVA project designed to integrate art with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Associate Professor Gillian Backus explained the project. “Our STEM to STEAM initiative was started primarily by former Art Professor Rebecca Kamen. I had worked with Rebecca in my newly conceived cross-disciplinary science course on the theme of water and Rebecca gave a guest lecture on water and art. Little did I know that she had already been bitten by the science bug.”

When Kamen retired, she requested that leftover grant money be used to fund a faculty learning community focused on STEAM. Faculty met weekly to discuss STEAM as a faculty development opportunity and it evolved into a student project that was offered as a pilot course in Fall 2013.

“Students in NOVA’s Honors Program were given the chance to participate in the initial course which was cross-listed in every discipline offered, allowing students to earn one credit in whichever discipline they liked,” Backus said.

Each student benefited from two faculty mentors: one from art and one from science. The student was responsible for conceptualizing and executing a project that was then exhibited as a final project during exam week.

One student used her art to represent biological processes, another focused on the neurobiology of vision and another depicted the geology of the Chesapeake Bay. Two students painted with oil on canvas and one chose pastels and chalk.

“Some students came with [a] great art background while others did not. The art and science mentors guided the students, helping them conceive, shape and execute their projects. But these art projects were truly from the minds of the students,” Backus said. “The faculty learned a lot as well. They worked as a cross-disciplinary team, collectively deciding how to grade the student’s progress and final exhibit. People in different disciplines talked to each other and the departmental silos were disabled.”

The show will be on display in the Colgan Hall gallery until September 26. The gallery is open to the public 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Fridays and 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, contact Professor Barbara Lash at

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