How to set up an art-science collaboration

If you are affiliated with an institution and would like to set up an art-science collaboration, here is a model that worked for a 2013  MIT/WHOI project pairing artists with scientists working on ocean science.

Producer and found of the Synergy project Whitney Bernstein shared her process with us. First, she interviewed each artist. To prepare for the matchmaking day, each artist and scientist was asked to submit a very short bio including a description of their work and process. Each participant was asked to read about other participants prior to meeting them in person. Then Whitney set up a matchmaking event similar to speed dating. The artists and scientists brought to the event some small object related to their work such as an organism, a tool from the lab or studio, or a small work of art. At the event, each artist had a few short minutes to sit with each scientist. Sometimes the matchmaking event resulted in surprises – for example, an artist might discover that the scientist they had selected “on paper” turned out not to be the best match in person.

Whitney remarks, “Already knowing the scientists, their work, and their personalities, I was able to tip the scale on match day and facilitate promising introductions.  Some of these ‘curated’ matches were spot on. Some matches were born from chance encounter during what I called the ‘wild card’ time slots. The meeting schedule was set in advance, so the wild card periods were blocks of times with no meetings scheduled, for random mixing and matching.”  Synergy was produced by Whitney Bernstein and Lizzie Kripke with the generous support of several funding sources.

If you are an artist who wants to work with a scientist or a scientific team/ lab; or if you are a scientist who sees the many benefits of collaborating with an artist or artists, try using our art-science matchmaking service, or contact us directly to ask for advice.

Let us know how you or your institution have set up events that encourage artists and scientists to collaborate – how did it work? What would you do differently?