Thoughts from the Science to Street Art Director

Welcome to Science to Street Art! At the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID), we are excited to premier a national first in science art fusion that engages viewers with permanent public art and creative placemaking.

What is Science to Street Art?

Science to Street Art merges academic agenda and informal learning opportunities into public space with a culturally responsive and community focused approach via street art. Science to Street Art is a WID initiative created and spearheaded by Ginger Ann.

Last year, scientists were selected based on their community outreach interests and their spirit of collaboration. In June 2019, we held a call for graffiti/street artists to participate in the program. Artists were selected based on submitted art samples, their experience in graffiti/street art, community engagement and their spirit of collaboration. Teams of scientists and artists were formed to focus on five mural topics. Topics were selected by Jo Handelsman and Ginger Ann and include: Astrophysics, Big Data/ Precision Medicine, the Diversity of Scientists, Molecular Structure, and the Periodic Table.

We paired scientists and street artists to collaborate on communicating science concepts through visual art. From that collaboration artists design mural drafts that are reviewed for science accuracy by their scientists’ teams. Artists then take those drafts to create and paint dynamic, and thought provoking science murals!

The 2019 inaugural year takes place in Madison, Wisconsin this fall in collaboration with the Madison Metropolitan School District and City of Madison.

Why is Science to Street Art Important?

As a global society, we need to encourage all community to invest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) to meet our future science workforce needs in tackling grand challenges of today and tomorrow. To invest in the future of science, we must create new approaches to STEM accessibility; and provide opportunities to encourage equality within STEM learning and fields. The future of STEM advancement rests on the responsibility of diversifying the future STEM workforce and engaging community to become STEM stakeholders regardless of current educational levels, background, or legacy.

Science to Street Art aims to challenge unconscious bias of what it means to communicate and understand science. To do this we take a non-traditional approach to STEM outreach by merging science with Street Art – an artistry founded by communities that have historically experienced marginalization. By fusing science into an art that is integrated into the heart of community and hip-hop culture – we are creating community viewing experiences that introduce science concepts through public art. By viewing murals on routes to school, work or home – the experiences provide spontaneous visual learning opportunities for children, families and the public due to ease of accessibility.

STEM murals create implicit and habit STEM learning opportunities that can enhance memory recall and complement science learning experiences for k-12 students, or the science curious. Implicit learning is the act of learning without realizing one is learning. Habit learning is a gradual change in behavior arrived at unconsciously through experience and repeated stimuli. These two learning strategies are key elements for academic success. Placing STEM murals throughout the city leverages out-of-school STEM impact for students and community that would otherwise not receive this type of learning exposure regularly.

Science to Street art is an investment in the future of STEM and the Madison street art community. We have the opportunity to inspire Madison community to connect; talk science when they happen upon science public art; and encourage students to pursue STEM fields by providing stunning visual learning within their communities that complements their K-12 experience.

After our pilot year, we will explore funding opportunities and partnerships to expand the program. We are looking forward to bringing the Science to Street Art experience to more communities throughout the state, nationally, and beyond!

Where did the Science to Street Art idea come from?

This initiative is close to my heart, the Science to Street Art idea is based on my personal experience growing up in Madison as a multiracial person of color, in addition to history of public art and community conversations.

My interests and educational background encompass the sciences and the arts. I found that these disciplines – although often viewed as differing, or even conflicting – have similarities (such as keen observation and attention to detail) and meld well together. In the spirit of interdisciplinary approaches, the Sciences, Arts and Humanities, when united, create a powerhouse for positive change and community engagement. The combination of these disciplines can expand, advance and amplify each field’s discoveries and applications. In terms of Science to Street Art, that spirit of collaboration supports and elevates a holistic approach to academic excellence for our k-12 and higher education systems while enriching public spaces with informal learning opportunities.

WID has a strong and creative team that understands the value in building opportunities within the fusion of science and art; when I shared the initial idea with WID leadership and faculty, several immediately lent their support, accelerating the idea into an initiative far beyond what one person could accomplish alone. Science to Street Art for many years was an idea that I held on to. This initiative was inspired not only by my own personal experiences, but influenced by the changes I underwent as a result of my travels. I was especially struck by the rich forms of street art I encountered that breathed life into the streets and told the story of those communities and peoples. I felt this artistic expression could have application in science education and outreach as well. Utilizing art and entertainment to encourage learning, breaking down barriers, and promoting educational equity was something I wanted to bring back and implement here in Madison for my community as one way to elevate equity in STEAM education and more. After pitching the idea to Jo Handelsman, Director of WID, I was given the opportunity to implement and direct Science to Street Art. The program has been in development for over two years before the first paint hit the walls of the Discovery Building.

Ginger Ann, Science to Street Art Founder & ID Hub Executive Director
As the creator of Science to Street Art and Executive Director of the Illuminating Discovery Hub, Ginger draws on her personal experience in science, art, and her family’s storytelling practice to develop non-traditional and creative ways to change how we tell and teach the story of science. As a part of WID, Ginger works on diversity, equity and inclusion frameworks to leverage WID’s community impact and research engagement.

Ginger graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UW-Madison with comprehensive honors and distinction in Bioarcheology, Classics and Stage performance. Ginger enjoys serving on several art and education committees within the city of Madison and can be found enjoying the parks of her childhood neighborhood with family and friends.